2. A new political culture

Several places in society are producing concrete solutions to the challenges of the future. A breakthrough is on the way, and individuals, associations, companies and organizations are increasingly exhibiting admirable democratic accountability and public engagement.

An effective and dynamic democracy depends on public engagement and is based on the community. Fortunately, we have a politically active population. The turnout is still high in Denmark – both at national, regional and municipal level. The fact that close to 200,000 people petitioned regarding their dissatisfaction with the decision to sell off DONG Energy to, among others, Goldman Sachs, testifies to a population that wants to get involved and be heard.

Although the election turnout in Denmark is generally very high, there are still obvious challenges within the current political culture. Public confidence in the elected is at a historically low level, and never have so few Danes been members of a political party. The distance between Christiansborg and the population is getting larger and larger.

The Alternative believes that this is due to a political and media culture where mudslinging, tactics and media spin occupies too much space.

Politicians’ low credibility and the media’s tendency to interpret politics as a tactical game contributes to worsening the political climate. It damages people’s desire to participate in politics and can ultimately destroy the possibilities to solve society’s real challenges.

If we are to take the action necessary to make a sustainable transition, we need the population’s support and belief in the utility of participating and engaging in politics.

We want a dynamic and participatory political culture in Denmark – a political culture that can build a democratic bridge between citizens and their elected representatives. We want it to be attractive and possible to get involved in politics, whether you are a scholar or craftsman, or whether you can contribute eight minutes or eight hours a day. We think that it should be obvious that active citizens are purposeful, and that engagement can help to create better solutions for society.

Therefore, The Alternative wants to promote a new political culture that is much more transparent, honest and attentive than the present one.  We want a culture in which it is easier for everyone to participate, even if they do not want to engage in partisan work, and where citizens are presented with the political calculations and not just the results.

The Alternative wants a political culture where there is room for internal disagreement in the political parties, but also room for agreement across party lines, and where the negotiations and debates that are essential for a functioning democracy are not kept in the wings.

2.1. We do it ourselves

In The Alternative, we start with ourselves because we recognize that all change must necessarily come from within. Therefore, The Alternative has identified a number of mandatory criteria for how we will operate and act as a political party.

Debate principles 
The Alternative’s politicians will debate from The Alternative’s debate principles. We do not believe that politicians must be omniscient oracles who can not admit that there is something they do not know, or that politicians cannot recognize a good argument, even though it came from a political opponent.

The Alternative’s debate principles:

  1. We want to draw attention to both advantages and disadvantages.
  2. We will listen more than we talk, and we will meet our political opponents where they are.
  3. We will highlight the values that lie behind our arguments.
  4. We will openly admit when we cannot answer a question and admit if we have been wrong.
  5. We will be curious towards those with whom we have conversations and debate.
  6. We will openly and impartially argue how The Alternative’s political vision can be achieved.

Media declaration

The Alternative recognizes that citizens can only be involved and engaged in politics if they actually hear about it. The media plays a crucial role as a facilitator, interpreter and critical watchdog on behalf of citizens. The Alternative will use the media actively and will therefore

take the effort to consider carefully how messages are communicated. We will make a media declaration that accurately accounts for what, how and why we communicate a message to one or more media source. In this way we ensure that The Alternative’s deliberations are transparent. Citizens, political commentators and other interested parties will always be able to read about our motive for telling a story to a specific media outlet or a particular journalist in a certain way.

Loosely speaking, The Alternative also makes spin. We are just open about it.

Transparency of the process

The Alternative will enter into political negotiations with the clear aim to involve citizens in the whole process and to account for how the individual results from the negotiation process are obtained. The Alternative will always openly discuss the intermediate results in political negotiations.

Political Ombudsman Council

The Alternative will create an Ombudsman Council to serve as The Alternative’s political watchdog. The Ombudsman Council will consist of five public debaters with a media, political or rhetorical background. The Ombudsman Council will be the external reviewer of The Alternative. It will make sure that we do what we say, and say what we do. The Ombudsman Council will annually publish an assessment of The Alternative’s ability to live up to our own values, and give constructive feedback on how we can improve.

The four points discussed above are The Alternative’s internal assumptions about how we, as a party, will exercise a new political culture. It is our hope that by taking the lead, we can inspire other parties, politicians and the media to consider how they too can help to develop a better political culture.

2.2. The further development of democracy

What we will work for: The further development of democracy

The Alternative will work for a new political culture in the whole of society – both in the political parties, in the legislative process, and in the individual citizen.

We have three specific proposals to strengthen both transparency around the economic interests that characterize the current political culture, and the opportunity for citizens’ direct involvement and participation in political processes.

Full disclosure of party support

There should be no doubt about whether political decisions are influenced by financial donations from the business community, organizations or others who have an interest in a particular policy development.

The Alternative believes that there must be full transparency of all donations and general membership to political parties in order to enhance the trust between people and politicians. As it currently stands, there is only openness about donations over 20,000 kroner, and there are many loopholes that make it possible to donate millions without it being revealed who is behind the support. We believe that the people have a right to to know where the money comes from.

Opportunity for a citizen-driven bill

In The Alternative, we believe that is makes good democratic sense to listen to the citizens. Today, citizens only have a limited opportunity to comment on a bill during the consultation process. This opportunity should be expanded radically so that citizens can suggest a new bill directly to Parliament.

In Finland, a collaboration between a volunteer-driven initiative and the Parliament created the platform, Open Ministry (Avoin Ministério). Here citizens as well as established organizations submitted new bills, which after a screening and formal approval of the Ministry of Justice, were put to vote online. If the proposal obtains 50,000 votes, it will be read in the Parliament alongside other bills. This process has so far led to five bills that have been sent for reading. The citizens’ votes are legitimated through a web-based infrastructure that guarantees that each citizen only has one vote.

The Alternative will work to ensure that a similar project will become a reality in Denmark. We believe that it will strengthen the connection between Christiansborg and the population, help to foster citizen engagement, and lead to good, innovative bills.

Center for Democracy, Policy Development and Public Participation

Denmark should be a leader in the development and research of democratic processes, citizen participation and policy development. To be that, we as a society have to constantly examine and challenge our understanding of democracy and politics. Only in this way can we ensure that we constantly improve the democratic organization and decision-making processes.

The Alternative therefore wishes to establish a research and knowledge institution inspired by the abolished Technology Council and the existing MindLab. We call this practice-oriented research institute the Center for Democracy, Policy Development and Public Participation. The center will consist of both researchers and practitioners and regularly involve citizens. It will be based at Christiansborg in order to promote cooperation with ministries and parties. The center’s mission will be to gather information locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and to present and test new solutions to democratic challenges in cooperation with Parliament, ministries, regions and municipalities.