Danish elections: Right-wing anti-immigration populism chalks up another victory in the Nordic region

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The Danish elections are the latest example of what happens to mainstream parties when they parrot populist and xenophobic rhetoric. In the sad case of Denmark, all of the parties attempted to match the Danish People’s Party (DPP) anti-immigration message.

Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman and foreign minister, Timo Soini, was elated by the Danish election result. He wrote in his blog that the PS are no longer alone in the Nordic region and Europe thanks to the good showing of the DPP.

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Not everyone was happy about the result, especially Muslims and anti-racism activists like Bashy Quraishy, who wrote on Facebook: “A truly dark day in modern Danish history that will throw out the humanism and inclusiveness out of the window and replace it with fear, shear greed and restrictions.”

And adds: “But our work for human rights and anti-discrimination would continue and progressive forces will double their efforts for humanity.” 

This is not a joke: The DPP became Denmark’s second-biggest party in parliament Thursday by capturing 21.2% of the vote, gaining 15 MPs to 37 MPs compared with 22 MPs, or 12.3% of the votes, in the 2011 elections

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The right-wing blue opposition bloc led by Lars Loekke Rasmussen, leader of Venstre, has 90 seats in the parliament compared with 85 for the red bloc led by Thorning-Schmidt.

After the result became clear, Social Democratic Party Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt, whose party got the most votes, (26.4%/44MPs versus 24.9%/44MPs in 2011), announced her resignation.

In her resignation speech published in the Guardian she said: “Every single day the responsibility has been mine. I stand by the decisions I have made…I was Denmark’s first female prime minister, but I won’t be the last.”

The biggest disappointment was in the right-wing Venstre camp, which saw its party lose 13 seats to trail behind the DPP.

Political commentator Kaspeer Fogh Hansen gave his view in the Guardian why the DPP emerged as the clear victor of the elections. 

“We need to see the movements of voter groups to understand the whole picture,” he said, “but it seems that everyone has tried to match the Danish People’s party’s policies so much that it has vindicated the party – and then the voters chose the real thing.”

After the DPP election victory and the PS’ as well in April, all eyes are on Sweden and what the election result in both countries will mean for the far right anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

If mainstream parties have tried to match the anti-immigration rhetoric of populist parties, is the strategy of giving the Sweden Democrats the political cold shoulder going to work?

The Sweden Democrats got elected the first time to parliament in 2010 with 5.7%. That has doubled in last year’s elections, when they became the third-largest party in parliament with 12.9% of the vote.

Even if the Sweden Democrats have risen in popularity in Sweden despite how mainstream parties are shunning them, they still haven’t made significant political gains as in Denmark and Finland.

Is mimicking the xenophobic and populist message of parties like the DPP and PS fueling these parties’ rise to power?

It certainly hasn’t bad for them. The next general elections in Sweden in 2018 will be a very important one concerning the political future of the Sweden Democrats and right-wing populism in the whole region.

Like in Denmark, Finnish mainstream parties have flirted with with populism and anti-immigration rhetoric.

In Finland in 2010 National Coalition Party chairman Jyrki Katainen stated that being critical and debating immigrant issues in this country didn’t make you a racist. After that green light to racism, the Social Democratic under Jutta Urpilainen gave the PS another pat on the back with their infamous saying, maassa maan tavalla.

A valid question that could be asked after the election of populist anti-immigration parties in Finland and Denmark is what’s next? While the DPP and PS have a surplus of anti-EU and anti-immigration rhetoric sugarcoated with white nativist nationalism to hand out, have these parties brought any solutions to the table instead of their usual whining?

Another important matter that the rise of populist parties in Denmark and Finland show that the myth of Nordic social equality is pretty selective and does not apply to those who aren’t white.

The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English-language names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.