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Denmark is set for a general election on 5 June, and the current Government is estimated to lose its majority to the opposition by a landslide. Open Europe’s Marcus Cadier outlines the Danish political landscape, where the migration issue is as salient as ever.
20 May 2019
In recent years, immigration has become an increasingly important issue in Danish politics; it is dominating the campaign for June’s general election, as well as the European Parliament elections. This has given a rise to political parties who are characterised by anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, while established mainstream parties have also toughened their stance on the issue. In the context of this overarching shift, the country’s traditional right-wing populist party, the Danish People’s Party (DPP), has fallen back – while two more radical populist parties have gained ground.
Recent years have also seen the introduction of controversial laws on immigration and integration. The 2016 “Jewellery Law” allows the police to confiscate money and jewellery from refugees as payment towards the asylum process. In 2018, wearing the burka or niqab in public was made subject to a £115 fine. In 2019, a set of new rules allowed for only temporary residency permits to be issued to immigrants.
The public debate has also become radicalised. A previous focus on integrating immigrants into Danish society has increasingly given way to a focus on returning refugees to where they came from. This has given rise to two new far-right political parties who are likely to gain seats in the Danish parliament – Hard Line and The New Right.
The Government in Denmark currently consists of three centre-right parties – Denmark’s Liberal Party (DLP), the Liberal Alliance (LA), and the Conservative People’s Party (CPP). These three constitute a so-called “blue bloc” in Parliament, with 53 out of 179 seats. With parliamentary support from the right-wing populist DPP (37 seats), the Government can rely on 90 votes – a majority of one.
The centre-right bloc combines pro-business and free market principles with an increasingly strict stance on immigration; the DLP, for example, say the “starting point [of migration policy] being that refugees should return home.” The current Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, is running for re-election in June; his bloc (with support from the DPP) is estimated to gain 40.2% of votes. Meanwhile, the DPP is currently the second largest individual party in the Danish parliament, but is set to drop to third largest, behind the Social Democrats and the DLP, after the coming election. The party is commonly described as being populist and anti-immigration; it runs on an agenda to protect Danish culture and resist further EU integration.
The opposition “red bloc” consists of 5 centre-left and left-wing parties. The Social Democrats are by far the largest party in the bloc and are estimated to win the general election, which would make their leader Mette Fredriksen Prime Minister. The Social Democrats have recently adopted a stricter migration policy. The bloc is estimated to gain 53.8% of the vote – partly as a result of their tougher stance on migration, which has helped them to win back left-leaning anti-immigration voters who had previously abandoned them for right-wing parties. Other policies of the “red bloc” include increased defence spending, harmonised EU workers’ rights and increased spending on welfare. The Social Democrats also co-govern several communes around Denmark with the DPP, and have been cooperating on specific issues in parliament over the years, including opposing an increase of the pension age in 2016. So although the DPP mainly provides support to the “blue bloc,” they also cooperate with the “red bloc” on certain issues.
Meanwhile, the far-right Hard Line are likely to reach the 2% parliamentary threshold and gain seats in parliament. Hard Line, which calls itself the party for “ethnic Danes,” want to ban Islam and deport all Muslims from Denmark. Its leader, Rasmus Paludan, is known for burning or defacing copies of the Koran at demonstrations. His party, formed in 2017, is estimated to gain 2.6% of the vote.
Another right-wing party, The New Right, is also estimated to gain seats in the Danish parliament. The party was established in 2015 and has been described as being anti-Islam, anti-immigration and economically libertarian. The New Right is estimated to gain 2.9%.
Denmark currently holds 13 seats in the European Parliament. If and when the UK leaves the EU, Denmark will receive one additional seat. The projected results of the European election largely reflect those of the general election. The Social Democrats are estimated to win the most seats (4), followed by DLP (3) and the DPP (2). This marks a significant decline for the DPP, which won the European elections in Denmark in 2014.
There are slight differences between the two projected results, especially since neither Hard Line nor The New Right are running in the European Parliament elections. The People’s Movement Against the EU, a left-wing Eurosceptic movement that has opposed Danish membership in the EU since 1972, is expected to win 1 seat.
The issue of migration and integration has been one of the main issues in Denmark for nearly two decades. It still dominates Danish politics – as well as giving rise to three populist parties, it has also forced established mainstream parties to be tougher on migration. The red bloc has gradually switched their stance on migration policy and are now likely to win a majority of seats in the general election in June by a landslide – enough for an overall majority, without having to rely on the DPP. This is the result of voters returning to the party, mainly from the DPP. The Social Democrats now have an effective mix of left economics and a tough stance on immigration, which seems to sit well with Danish voters.
The fact that Hard Line and The New Right are likely to gain seats in parliament suggest that there is small but growing support for right-wing extremism in Denmark, with some voters not satisfied by the relatively tough migration positions of the red bloc, the blue bloc, or even the populist DPP. It remains to be seen whether these far-right parties will grow further in the coming years, and if any policies the new government implements will be enough to satisfy anti-immigration voters.