Theodoros Benakis

A new party seeks to exploit the anti-immigration environment in Denmark

Danish Democrats official site

Discrimination of immigrants and identity concerns affect quite the entire political scene in the country  

Anti-immigration politics are not unknown in Denmark. Initially boosted by the far-right party Danish People’s Party (DPP) soon were adopted by other political forces, including the Social Democrats. However, the anti-immigration ground still offers an opportunity for right-wing populists and far-right politicians.

Thus, a new party – the Denmark Democrats (Æ) – with a marked anti-immigration agenda emerged in June. The fact would not be a big story and could pass as an episode in national political life. But a recent polling result placed it in fourth place with 11%, behind only the ruling Social Democrats (A), the Conservatives (C), and the Liberals (V). The leader of the Æ is Inger Stojberg, known for her anti-immigration behaviour when she was Minister of Immigration.

Four former DPP MPs are supposed to join Inger Stojberg. In addition, it seems that the new party has the potential to penetrate the devastated by the internal crisis DPP.

The economy of Denmark owns much to first, second, or third-generation immigrants. The presence of Asians, Latin Americans, etc. within Danish society is dated decades back. The Danish society seemed to be an ideal environment without colour or religious discrimination.

However, things changed when the far-right showed galloping growth in votes. In 2016, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of the Liberal-Conservative Venstre party, was pressured to form his third cabinet in coalition with the Liberal Alliance and DPP.

In 2017, Folketing, the Danish Parliament, expressed concern over the lowing of the number of Dans. In 2018, the Parliament voted on the Ghetto Law, which aims to eradicate ghettoes by 2030.

As Hettie O’Brien writes in an Opinion in Guardian (“If you think Denmark is all Borgen and social equality, take a look at its awful ‘ghetto’ law”), on June 27, the government hopes to lead what it calls “parallel societies” in confrontation. This phrase “borders on a collective paranoia: the fear that areas that are home to large numbers of minority and Muslim citizens risk splintering a national culture,” writes O’Brien.

The rise of anti-immigration rhetoric in the country caused a U-turn in the immigration policy of the Social Democrats. After they adopted a strict policy concerning immigrants and refugees, they formed government after the 2019 elections. The current prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, the leader of the Social Democrats, has the support of five centre-left, green, and left parties.

Anti-ghetto Law

Denmark has introduced very strict immigration procedures to block more arrivals of asylum seekers in the country.

Frederiksen cabinet will soon face a vote of the Parliament aiming to ease restrictions on the recruitment of Non-EU/EEA foreign workers. The new Law decreases by 16% the minimum annual salary – Pay Limit Scheme – of non-Europeans.

The Pay Limit Scheme is used to grant work permits for nationals of third countries. However, despite the need of the Danish economy for man power it will also affect the working conditions of Danish citizens.

In addition, it has to implement the anti-Ghetto Law which advances discrimination and affects non-white Danish citizens. According to the Law, the Danish state arbitrarily designates a neighbourhood as a “ghetto”. As Hettie O’Brien writes, the decision relies “on the proportion of residents who are deemed ‘non-western’ – meaning recent, first-, or second-generation migrants.”

A quite wild real estate speculation is already ongoing. However, it matches with the Social Democrat anti-immigration policies.

Danish People’s Party crisis

In the 2015 general election, the far-right Danish People’s Party (DPP) won 21.08% of the national vote gaining 37 seats. The party climbed to second place and entered negotiations with the liberal-conservative Venstre to provide parliamentary support asking for stricter policies concerning immigration and the EU. The architect of the electoral success was Kristian Thulesen Dahl, the party leader. DPP entered the government in 2016.

But, the 2019 general election proved catastrophic for the Danish far-right party. It won just 8.7% of the vote and gained only 16 seats.

The collapse was the consequence of the new immigration policies of the Social Democrats.

Consequently, DPP entered in crisis that resulted in a deep split. In February 2022, ten MPs left the party after the election of the new leader, Morten Messerschmidt. One of them was the former leader of the party. They declared no confidence in Messerschmidt as a leader.

Many MPs and party cadres predict now the end of the DPP as a political party.

DPP is a member of the Identity and Democracy Group in the European Parliament, an alliance including Italy’s League, the French National Rally, AfD, the Finns Party, and other far-right parties.

New far-right party storms into Danish politics

Under this gloomy atmosphere of reciprocal accusations that affect the Danish far-right, a new anti-immigration party has emerged. The Denmark Democrats were founded in June by Inger Stojberg, a former Minister of Immigration in the Lars Løkke Rasmussen cabinet. A poll performed just two weeks after the creation of Æ indicated the party attracts 11% of the voters.

It is early to know how the Denmark Democrats will perform in Danish politics or predict its European affiliations.

However, it is not difficult to characterize Æ as a far-right party.

Inger Støjberg, the founder, is a former MP for the liberal-conservative Venstre party. Støjberg served as minister for gender equality (2009-2010), employment (2010-2011), and immigration, integration, and housing between June 2015 and June 2019. In February 2021, the majority of MPs of her party voted to impeach her for an order she gave to separate asylum seeker families in which at least one spouse was minor. She was sentenced to 60 days in prison and lost her parliamentary identity.

Her party’s name echoes that of the white supremacist Sweden Democrats and declares to be “a bourgeois party that fights for us Danes, of whom we are the majority.” The party claims to talk on behalf of the ordinary people against the elites.

Æ espouses Euroscepticism by considering EU regulations too bureaucratic and damaging to Danish business companies.

“We will fight against this because it goes beyond both companies and good employees who want to take care of their work,” indicates the programme.

The party has an anti-environmentalist position. “It is important to us that climate policy does not become hostile to businesses. We are in favor of the green transition, but it must be in a way where we preserve both the companies and the workplaces in Denmark.”

Anti-immigration plays a pivotal role in the programme.

“When you come to Denmark as a foreigner, you have to adapt to our culture and our society. Generations before us have laid the foundations of the freedoms and the society we live in now. You can then build your own life on top of that foundation. You just can’t break the foundation. It should be crystal clear to anyone who comes to Denmark,” emphasizes the party programme.

It is too early to tell whether the new party will succeed in replacing DPP.

Four former DPP MPs, namely Peter Skaarup, Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, Bent Bøgsted, and Hans Kristian Skibby said they are considering to join Æ.

Peter Skaarup, a MP since 1998 and parliamentary leader for the party since 2012, supports immigrant repatriation from Denmark and the voluntary return of migrants “struggling to adapt to Danish society”. He is against Muslims and immigrants from non-Western countries. He is also an advocate of removing the Age of criminal responsibility. Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl is the brother of the former DPP leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl.

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