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Revitalising intra-party democracy through digital democratic innovations: The case of Danish political party Alternativet

Nikolai Gad, Newcastle University

Tue 3 July 2018

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


The Danish political party Alternativet constitutes a recent example of an emerging political party that claims to promote and practice new and inclusive ways of doing politics, experimenting with digital technologies for this purpose. In this respect, they share many characteristics with other emerging, European political parties, including the Pirate Parties in Germany, Iceland and elsewhere, Podemos in Spain, and M5S in Italy. Similarly, to these parties, Alternativet also experienced electoral success relatively quickly and has been represented in parliament since 2015. Thus, Alternativet, like similar emerging parties, is an attempt to combine democratic innovations with party politics and traditional political institutions in liberal representative democracies. This is interesting considering how democratic innovations are often conceptualised in contrast to classic representative political institutions, and these parties’ potential ability to provide consequentiality to citizen participation.

In my PhD, I explore how digital democratic innovations are used in Alternativet, to involve members and supporters directly in intra-party policy formation and decision-making. Based on semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in Alternativet, I identify four different models of intra-party democracy promoted by the party elite; each with their own justifications for and aims of involving people in party politics. These include an aggregative crowd sourcing model, a participatory DIY model, a deliberative model, and a more traditional delegation model. I theorise that different digital technologies utilised by the party, each cater for different models of intra-party democracy, and test this through a membership survey.

About the speaker

Nikolai Gad is a RCUK (Research Council UK) funded PhD candidate at Newcastle University, where he studies the role of digital technologies in emerging European political parties, that claim to re-invent how to “do politics” from the bottom up. Here, he is based at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics based at the university’s Open Lab, from where he also earned a Master degree in preparation for the PhD. Additionally, he is part of the School of Geography, Sociology and Politics at Newcastle University, and he holds a BSc degree in Political Science from the University of Copenhagen, and an MSc degree in Digital Design and Communication from the IT-University of Copenhagen.

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