Denmark’s environmentalist Alternative party suffers despite climate-focused election

The Alternative party, for which the environment and climate change is its primary issue, is struggling in the polls with a general election imminent, despite a huge interest in the issue amongst the public.

Denmark’s environmentalist Alternative party suffers despite climate-focused election
Alternative election placards in Copenhagen. Photo: Martin Sylvest / Ritzau Scanpix

A number of issues have provided obstacles for the green party, which was launched in 2013, as it attempts to follow up on its breakout success at the 2015 election.

“Although Alternative, politically speaking, has an issue which is more relevant than ever before, voters are clearly unsure as to whether they are the right party to do something about it,” said commentator Erik Holstein of the Altinget political media.

“I think that is due to cases in which prominent party members have done things that are in conflict with the green agenda,” Holstein said.

“When you present (climate change) as though the world is about to end while also taking a scuba diving holiday in Zanzibar, I think you’ll lose voters,” the analyst continued, in reference to reports of prominent party members taking long-distance flights.

The party has also been the subject of other controversies regarding its leadership.

After entering parliament for the first time in 2015 with 4.8 percent of the popular vote, Alternative polled at just 2.9 points in mid-April, falling perilously close to the 2 percent threshold for parliamentary representation.

Latest polls show the party continuing to lose support, with 2.5 points.

Meanwhile, a Voxmeter poll showed climate to be one of three subjects considered by voters to be the most important in the upcoming election.

“We have absolutely asked ourselves why this could be. One obvious explanation is that we are seeing massive competition from other parties on the subject of climate, with one climate proposal after another,” Maier said.

“That can only be a positive thing,” the Alternative MP added.

“The other thing is that we’ve had a number of negative reports. There has been unrest amongst our support and criticism of the leadership. That makes people unsure whether we have our house in order,” she said.

Holstein said that he doubted the party could turn the tide and achieve a strong election result.

“I can’t see what they could pull out of the hat to change this. They have presented an ambitious climate plan, and people know what they are about,” he said.

A continued push on the environment could still set the green party apart from its competitors, according to Maier.

“We are still the most ambitious party regarding the environment. We must make sure Danes know that we are the most ambitious party in this area,” she said.

That could be done by highlighting difference between Alternative’s green policies compared to others, she said.

“In a way, we’re a victim of our own success because we have changed the agenda,” Maier said.

READ ALSO: The 2019 Danish general election: What you should know about the parties on the left

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Danish parliament gives go ahead to giant artificial island off Copenhagen

Denmark's parliament has given the go-ahead to build Lynetteholm, a giant artificial island that will protect Copenhagen's harbour waters from rising sea levels at the same times as providing homes for 35,000 people.

Danish parliament gives go ahead to giant artificial island off Copenhagen
How the island will look while udner construction. Photo: By og Havn

The bill empowering the government to push ahead with the project passed with a massive majority of 85 in favour and 12 against, opening the way for work to push ahead on the 2.8 square kilometer island early as this autumn.

In a short debate on Friday morning, Thomas Jensen, the Social Democrat MP coordinating the bill, dismissed claims that not enough had been done to assess the environmental consequences of what has been described as the largest construction project in Danish history.

“Of the bills I have helped to implement here in the parliament, this is the one which has been most thoroughly discussed, with expert consultations, technical reviews, and almost 200 questions to the Ministry of Transport, which have been answered by the rapporteurs,” he said. “So in terms of process, it is completely worked out.”


Ahead of the vote protesters from the Stop Lynetteholm Facebook group staged a protest outside the parliament, with many dressed in Sean the Sheep costumes. 

Protesters dressed as sheep staged a demonstration against the Lynetteholm project outside the parliament. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The parliamentary vote is not the last hurdle.

The project is also being challenged in the European Court of Justice, on the grounds that the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)  have looked at the impact of constructing the island itself, but not of the roads, metro lines, housing and other developments which will go on it.

Lynetteholm is being built partly as a coastal protection project, with a dam that will protect Copenhagen from future storm surges.

The plan was first announced in 2018 by the then Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, and the then Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen.