Saturday, February 09, 2008

The End of the New Alliance

Naser KhaderIn the run-up to last November’s election in Denmark, Naser Khader, a moderate Muslim politician and the leader of the New Alliance party (Ny Alliance) received a lot of media attention. The New Alliance was a small party, but as a member of the governing coalition, it was billed as a “power broker”, since the election was expected to reduce the power of Venstre, the party of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the dominant partner in the coalition.

Naser Khader’s political positions — including a proposal to ease some of the rules about immigration, and other social issues — were expected to influence government policies as a part of the price for his participation in the government.

New Alliance was formed as an alternative and counterweight to the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti), an anti-immigration party committed to the promotion of traditional Danish values. The DPP is anathema to the elite media and celebrities in Denmark, what with its vulgar and politically incorrect attitude towards all things Danish.

The best and the brightest of the glitterati flocked to New Alliance, and prompted the coinage of a new term, halalhippierne, “halal hippies”, for this convergence between the moderate Muslims and chic celebrities.

But Venstre did better than expected in the election, as did the DPP, and New Alliance was limited to just five seats in Parliament. Even so, Mr. Rasmussen’s core parties (Venstre, the Conservatives, and the DPP) hovered right around the 50% mark, which still allowed for the possibility that Naser Khader would retain the front-page celebrity and influence to which he has become accustomed in the past few years.

In the last two weeks all that has changed. First one New Alliance MP left the party, and then another defected to Venstre. The three-member “rump” of New Alliance in Parliament is essentially irrelevant now, and the glory days of Naser Khader are a thing of the past.

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I make it a habit to look through the Danish-language news media, but my grasp of Danish is still too rudimentary for me to understand much. When I reach an impasse in a news story, I often ask our Danish correspondent Kepiblanc to help me out.

Gitte Seeberg was the first defector from New Alliance on January 29th. Here’s what Kepiblanc had to say about her:

Gitte SeebergGitte Seeberg was — until recently — a ‘foot soldier’ in the old Conservative Party (Det konservative Folkeparti — the classical conservative party founded around 1890 by landlords, nobility, squires etc.) and was rewarded with a seat in the European Parliament, where she couldn’t do any harm.

But apparently she wanted some influence, so she left the party and founded New Alliance, together with Naser Khader and one Anders Samuelsen (yet another surplus politician from the EU Parliament, placed there by the Radical Left [Det Radikale Venstre] — nothing “radical” about that, merely a wishy-washy party of do-gooders, tree-huggers, Islamophiles, etc. — in short the “café latte crowd”).
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Right after the startup of New Alliance (May 2007) polls gave them something like twenty seats in Parliament (out of 175), which meant substantial influence. The whole idea of the party was to reduce the influence of the Danish People’s Party, a supporter of the present government and our guarantee against uncontrolled Muslim immigration.

But the new party blew it completely: the candidates flooding into the party were political amateurs, yuppies, TV-anchors, actors, etc. — the ones we call ‘urban fools’ (storbytosser) who came up with crazy ideas (like reducing tax solely on the island of Funen), some of them best known for their greed and extravagances.

Anyway, at the election the party got five seats and thus barely made it into Parliament. The Danish People’s Party became stronger than ever. The New Alliance ended up as nothing but laughingstock and without any influence whatsoever. Consequently they gave up any opposition to the government and the Danish People’s Party and fell in line as supporters of PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Gitte Seeberg could not accept this merry-go-round, so she left the party — now down to four seats. She’s a sole player now and without any chance of getting re-elected, even to the EU Parliament. She’s just finished.

Exit Gitte Seeberg.

All in all, I think she’s honest and good-spirited, but naïve, ignorant and a little dumb.

Shortly after the departure of Ms. Seeberg — on February 5th — Malou Aamund left New Alliance. Kepiblanc gave me this brief summary:

Malou AamundAnother MP, Malou Aamund, has left New Alliance.

She is one of those ‘celebrities’, a former fashion model and the daughter of a yuppie businessman. She has now joined Venstre (a most ironic label literally meaning ‘left’. A proper label would be something like ‘Right-wing liberals’ — the party of PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen).

The party ‘New Alliance’ is a dead joke.

New Alliance got five seats at the election. With Gitte Seeberg and now Malou Aamund gone they’re down to three. The party is history.

New Alliance may be history, but one suspects Naser Khader is not. Mr. Khader has become accustomed to the media spotlight, and he has gained international stature as that most elusive of creatures, a moderate Muslim politician.

I can’t see him giving up the limelight voluntarily. But I can’t see him playing second fiddle to Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the other leaders of Venstre, either.

So what’s to become of Naser Khader? Yet another new political party? The Radical Left? Some other party?

Or is he doomed to political oblivion?


kepiblanc said...

Naser Khader started his political odyssey in 'The Radical Left', then formed his - now defunct - 'New Alliance' and rumours have it that he is courting the 'Conservative Party' now. So you are right, Baron, he will not leave the limelight.
(The 'Conservative Party' is but a shadow of its former self. Nowadays it is about greed only. Forgotten is God, king, and country.).

laller said...

I'm not sure that Naser is a moderate muslim. He seems secularized, which makes him a muslim in name only.

Personally I originally thought that New Alliance would do quite well. Many people don't want DPP to have any influence, and New Alliance is DPP diametric opposite. Once New Alliance publicized their (by Danish standards) quite libertarian platform, I had a feeling they'd loose their popular support. Most Danes find libertarian ideas distateful, I think.

Oh yeah. There's nothing really ironic about Venstres name. In its early years it was considered a left-wing party(It was in the 19th century. Left-wing then and left-wing now is apparently not the same thing).

Henrik R Clausen said...

“halal hippies” was actually a term coined by Naser Khader himself. I'm not sure if it was at the time of the Mo-crisis or before, but he took a very good stand for civil liberties and freedom of expression, and went straight against the Salafist imams.

We are grateful for that, it was deeply valuable.

However, nothing much of value came from him since then. While he's sympathetic he doesn't have the sharpness or the dilligence needed to found a political party - he was always one of our laziest PM's - and he doesn't have much in the way of fundamental principles (like 'libertarian' or 'socialist') to base his party on.

That causes it to collapse under scrutiny, for he easily changes position according to what he percieves as the public opinion. Everytime he changes course, some members leave in disaffection - and then he changes again.

Samuelsen is a strange mix of libertarian and anti-DF attitude. I respect him for his tax ideas, they are actually based on a philosophy, and consider him the only worthwhile PM of the five.

Malou Aamund might become good. Her father was a staunch supporter of freedom during the Mo-crisis, and if she has only half the common sense of her father, she'll be fine.

Seeberg I had some dealings with from time to time. I agree completely that she was skipped off to Brussels in order to not be too embarrasing in our national parliament. She's not conservative, just a happy-go-lucky globalization nut. No sense of benefiting her country.

Oh. Dansk Folkeparti took over the best ideas from the Conservatives. Like God, King, country. We're much larger, too :)

I like the term 'glitterati'. They enjoyed the limelight while it lasted.

Sum total, while the collapse isn't complete yet, it looks like the fastest collapse of any political party in Denmark to date. The first one led by a Muslim (in name only), and interestingly yet another representative of the "Third way" originally touted by Mussolini and his folks.

They'll either linger on quietly or by accident trigger an early election. In any case, the polls look good, and the right side of the Danish parliament would probably get an easy victory if that was to happen.

We're in a good position.

Michael said...

The bare fact alone that Naser Khader wanted New Alliance to fight Dansk Folkeparti has convinced me that Khader is a wolf in sheep's clothes.

For some time, I thought he was a moderate. His kind of moderates has the same aim as the extremists: islamic domination. They just use a different timeframe.

The ONLY moderate muslims are that elusive brand of intellectuals who want to interpret the Quran as an allegoric book, and not as the litteral word of God. You need a microscope to find them, but they exist.

Outlaw Mike/Belgium

Henrik R Clausen said...

"Khader is a wolf in sheep's clothes."

I still think he's a sheep in sheep's clothes...

He doesn't have a coherent strategy to what he's doing, and he's going about things in a completely wrong way, trying to follow what he believes is the 'public spirit' and finding himself duped again and again.

It's just populism, and eventually, when people at large (hopefully) increase their interest in democracy, this will set an example of how not to do things. I don't consider him a moderate Muslim, but a 'cultural Muslim', meaning it's only in name. That, of course, is still problematic, and as far as I know he still has 24 hour police protection against the real Muslims.

As for moderate Muslims, I have an idea. They are called 'Alevis' and live in Turkey. They reject the five pillars, literal interpretation of the Quran, the Islamic prayer and mosques. Not that they have any political influence, and the Sunni majority is doing what it can to crush them.

Zonka said...

I Agree completely with Henrik, that Khader is a sheep in sheep's clothing, or more precisely he is a footsoldier, who at a critical time (during the MoToons) called out his righteous indignation at the shameful way many was kowtowing to Islam. But that doesn't make him a great leader in itself, although it did make him popular. And from that moment I think the shape of his future was formed, he was led into the trap of forming a new party, based on his personal popularity, probably helped by his former party, to ferret out the dissatisfied members of the party (Radikale Venste - Social Liberals), helped by an eager press, that promised him just about everything if only he would run on his own platform, etc.

Problem being that he didn't have a platform, other than his personal popularity (based on personal bravery), he didn't have an ideology, and in the absense people filled out the ideologi with whatever they themselves thought would fit, and consequently when Ny Alliance (New Alliance) was formed it was a party with three inept leaders and a lot of people projecting their own ideas and ideals into the party, and acted accordingly -- it quickly became a party of all and nothing, litterary. And once the harsh realities of politics started to set in: You need a party program, you need to take sides on specific questions, etc. the fate of the party was sealed, internal disagreements, bursted illusions of what the party represented, etc. was out in the open, and dissatisfied members started leaving whenever the leadership of the party had a clearcut opinion or formed one.

It has been so predictable, and yet also refreshing in a way, as this have been a scholary example on how politics works, lofty and very general ideas do not survive the meeting with the day to day works of politics, and that in politics bravery is no match for experience and having a program (policy).

As for Khader himself, I think he has been duped, into believing that he could fill the expectations of the many, and letting ambition take over. He is a foot soldier, not a general, he doesn't have the strategic sense, mastery of available tactics and most critical of all he doesn't have a plan! So the best thing for all would be for him to become a foot soldier again, dissolve the party as it has no purpose any longer and there is no need to prolong it's death struggle -- they shot for the moon and missed, time to hit the self destruct button.

And as Henrik said, perhaps this experience will teach people something about the practical aspects of democracy, and that you don't just form a party of all that is dissatisfied with the current situation, without having a plan for the party ahead of going public as well as a leadership with clear visions and clear goals, or you will just repeat the failures of Ny Alliance. So I too view this as not a failure but a valuable lesson in the practicalities of politics and democracy.

And it is refreshing too in the sense that it shows, that politics haven't been taken over by the personality cults and sapped completely of content...

Henrik R Clausen said...

For a real wolf in sheep's clothes, I suggest to look to Yildiz Akdogan, freshly elected MP for Socialdemokraterne. She's more dangerous than Khader, as she represents the line of the Turkish AKP party in Denmark. I saw her yesterday on television, where she talked down the significance of the lifting of the headscarf ban in Turkey.

I've had some fun challenging her views since I first met her leading a counter-demonstration to our "No Turkey in EU" demonstration. She's cute and mild.

A harder exchange was during a conference about Cyprus she had taken the initiative for, held by the PC daily Politiken. I basically wrecked it, leaving nothing to the appeasers at Politiken and herself stating in the conclusion that she regretted that the conference could not wind up in a more positive way. It could easily, had the Turkish representatives had just the tiniest concession to give - they didn't.

Oh. I won lasting friendship from the ambassador of Cyprus that day.

We've sparred in the newspapers, too. I'm sure she doesn't like me, but she has to respect me - she knows I'm tough.

In a way, calling her 'wolf' is slightly misleading. She's quite young (well, 35), and probably didn't think too deeply about matters of democracy, secularism and Western freedoms. What I think is the real problem with her is that, for lack of personal convictions, she's very easily pursuaded to simply relay the points of view of the Turkish government, AKP and Erdogan.

I'd worry much more about her than about Khader.