Christian Democrats seek revival

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Norway’s ailing Christian Democratic party

(Kristelig Folkeparti, KfF) , faced with ever-dwindling voter support, is in acute need of revival. One deputy leader’s liberal ideas for salvation, however, have set off protests from the party’s conservative arm and raised questions over her own political future.Inger Lise Hansen made headlines throughout the weekend, after sharing her ideas for “modernizing” the party with newspaper Aftenposten .

Hansen, for example, thinks the party’s unwavering support for Israel should be reconsidered and that the party should support homosexual marriage.

She also proposes that KrF should favour Norwegian membership in the European Union (EU), that the state liquor monopoly Vinmonopolet should have a presence in every Norwegian township, and that KrF officials no longer should have to declare themselves Christian but simply support “Christian values.”

Hansen’s proposals have set off shock waves in her own party and led some to wonder why, if adopted, there should even be a Christian Democrats party — because its policies would be so similar to those of other parties on both the socialist and non-socialist side.

While some party members call her “brave,” others are so critical that they doubt she’ll survive as a party official.Hansen insists, however, that drastic changes are needed to “rebuild” KrF with “modern policies.” An oath of faith, for example, “is hopeless in a modern Christian Democratic party,” she told Aftenposten .

There’s little argument that KrF is in trouble. It once was a major force in Norwegian politics, commanding enough voter support to even propel its officials into the prime minister’s office.

It’s been losing support for years, however, and only won 5.5 percent of the vote in the Parliamentary election last fall. Recent public opinion polls suggest its support has fallen even more since then, dangerously close to the 4 percent level needed to maintain representation in Parliament.

So Hansen wants to move the party in a more liberal direction, claiming it then should be “fully possible” for KrF to once again attain as much as 15 percent of the vote. Her proposals came just as KrF was holding a major strategy meeting in Stavanger during the weekend.

While Hansen has support from young and liberal party members, her proposals upset others. “These are statements that are shocking many here,” another deputy party leader, Dagrun Eriksen, told Aftenposten.no. “I don’t want to halt such proposals, but this isn’t what the party is concerned with right now, and they’re creating confusion.”

Hansen says she simply wants to spark debate witihin the party. Party leader Dagfinn Høybråten, who initially refused to comment on Hansen’s proposals, said the party’s current program still applies.