Denmark's socialists win election after hard-right turn on immigration, Islam

Denmark's socialists win election after hard-right turn on immigration, Islam
Despite an unprecedented turnout of Danish Muslims, Denmark's Social Democrats are likely to take power after wooing populist supporters with anti-immigration rhetoric.
3 min read
06 June, 2019
Leader of the victorious Social Democrats Mette Frederiksen championed anti-immigrant policies in her campaign [Getty]
Denmark's centre-left Social Democrats came out on top in Wednesday's general election, ousting the incumbent right-wing coalition and promising a new focus on welfare and environmental issues, but pledged to continue muscular anti-immigration policies originally spearheaded by the far-right.

Mette Frederiksen, the leader of the Social Democrats, will likely become the next prime minister after her party won 25.9 percent of votes, giving the left-wing bloc a majority of 91 of the 179 seats in parliament.

Frederiksen, 41, has provoked controversy among the left-wing bloc after pledging to continue curbing immigration, and stating her support for hard-line, anti-Islam and anti-immigrant policies such as banning the face veil and confiscating valuables from Syrian refugees in order to "pay for their stay" in asylum centres.

Read more: Denmark's burqa ban: A lurch towards secular extremism

In her victory speech, Frederiksen said Danes had "chosen a new majority, and a new direction".

Due to her anti-immigrant turn, many fellow left bloc parties are reluctant to enter into a formal coalition with the Social Democrats, who are seeking to rule as a minority government with ad-hoc support from other parties, not unusual in Denmark.

The current government, led by Lars Lokke Rasmussen of the Liberal Party, was brought down by a collapse in votes for the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party (DPP), which has informally supported his minority coalition to pass legislation.

Immigration U-turn

Many believe the Social Democrats managed to court DPP voters by appealing to their anti-immigrant sentiments, emphasising that with tighter controls on borders, Denmark's generous welfare state would be protected.

Despite denouncing Denmark's strict immigration controls in the early 2000s, last year the Social Democrats proposed to send asylum seekers to special camps in North Africa while their requests are processed.

This year, the Social Democrats abstained rather than voted against a law for mandatory handshakes at citizenship ceremonies, irrespective of religious sentiment. It also failed to vote down a scheme to remove unsuccessful asylum seekers to a remote island used for testing animal diseases.

In February, Frederiksen backed a DPP policy to reorient the goal of asylum policy to repatriation, instead of integration.

The DPP, which for the last two decades has given support to successive minority right-wing governments in exchange for strengthened immigration policies, saw its collapse to more to 8.7 percent, the party's worst performance since 1998.

Wednesday's elections also saw support for the extreme right-wing party Stram Kurs - meaning hard line - disintegrate, winning less than 2 percent of the votes and therefore below the threshold to enter parliament.

Stram Kurs, founded in 2017 by lawyer and anti-Islam extremist Rasmus Paludan, gained notoriety after campaigning to ban Islam.

Operation Muslim Vote

Muslims in Denmark were thought to be mobilised to vote in unprecedented numbers for this election.

Voter turnout surpassed 80 percent, as is usual for the country of 5.6 million people.

At the Eid prayer in Aarhus, Denmark's second city, worshippers were called upon to "go out en masse to cast votes, instead of leaving it in the hands of the far-right parties".

Read more: Denmark's Islamophobic 'ghetto' laws are a slippery slope towards fascism

Arab youth initiatives have also kicked into action in the past days to mobilise youngsters of Denmark's sizeable Palestinian and Kurdish communities, with the slogan, "Let us vote instead of being voted on".

Two leftist parties, eco-socialists the Red-Green Alliance and social liberals, the Radical Left, filled the vacuum left by the Social Democrats, gaining 13 and 16 seats respectively after emphasising immigrant-friendly policies and in the Red-Green Alliance's case, a pro-Palestinian stance.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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