How Mama Pia’s influence has spread beyond Danish shores

Pia Kjærsgaard’s impact extended far beyond the Danish borders that she fought so hard to keep closed

Her legacy is undeniable (photo: Brandsen) Her legacy is undeniable (photo: Brandsen)
December 28th, 2015 8:00 pm| by Peter Stanners
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

In September 2012, Pia Kjærsgaard stood down as leader of the anti-immigration party Dansk Folkeparti (DF), which she has led since 1995. While the national media debated her impact on Denmark and politicians set aside their differences to praise her sheer determination, her departure also made waves abroad.

Wild about the girl
“Through Pia’s leadership and influence on Danish politics, Denmark has become a proud and self-assured country that has fought for the ideals of freedom against Islamisation and decrees from Brussels,” Dutch politician Geert Wilders told Ritzau. “Pia Kjærsgaard has been an inspiration for many of her political friends in other countries.”

Wilders is the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), an openly anti-Islamic party that has called for a complete end to immigration from non-Western countries. His open criticism of Islam and multiculturalism has made him an unpopular figure in the Netherlands and he requires 24-hour police protection due to the number of threats against his life.

PVV has proven popular with many Dutch voters, however, managing to become the Netherlands’ third largest party at the 2010 general elections, in which it secured 24 seats, before slipping back to 15 in 2012.

Like DF, but Dutch
Until it pulled its support and caused the collapse of the Dutch government in April 2012, it supported the minority government in much the same way DF did between 2001 and 2011. According to Sarah de Lange, an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam, this is no coincidence as the PVV emulated many of DF’s strategies to achieve political power.

Mama PiaÂ’s boy: the DF model has been used to great degrees of success by Geert Wilders in the Netherlands (PR Photo)

“Geert Wilders admired DF’s ideology and organisation and he’s always made that clear,” De Lange told the Copenhagen Post.

“The ideology of welfare chauvinism [excluding immigrants from welfare benefits] was not originally one of their policies and only arrived later on as the party program developed. Then you started to see them defend the elderly and healthcare while also speaking up for the rights of natives over immigrants. These policies weren’t there in the beginning.”

De Lange argues that the PVV and DF have a fundamentally different approach to traditional right-wing parties that used to pursue corporatist and neoliberal agendas. In the move towards the left, the parties captured voters who were scared by how immigration could threaten the welfare state.

“The combination of welfare chauvinism and anti-immigration appeals to less-educated voters. But it’s also an economic program that better fits nationalism because neo-liberalism is about openness and free trade, whereas DF and the PVV are more inward-looking,” De Lange said.

No extreme connections
Susi Meret, an assistant professor at Aalborg University who is an expert in far-right groups, also agrees that DF was one of the first right-wing parties to link xenophobic social policies, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and promises of generous public spending. While this approach proved popular with voters, Meret also argues that the centralised control over the party message also contributed to DF’s success.

“DF have always been careful to show that they have no contact with extreme movements,” Meret told the Copenhagen Post.

“It was a strategy they implemented before joining the government because they had to have a profile in parliament that could be relied upon. Many people belonging to extreme movements were thrown out when their right-wing connections were made known.”

Wilders also recognised the need to keep a single strong message, according to De Lang.

“He saw it was important to have a tightly organised party, and if there were controversial members, they needed to be gotten rid of. Perhaps he even went further than DF because his party started out with only one member,” she said.

Jimmie Ã…kesson and Sweden's Sverigedemokraterna have emulated DF but haven't enjoyed the same success at the polls (Photo: Sverigedemokraterna)Less success in Sweden
The Swedish party Sverigedemokraterna also shares some policies with DF: anti-immigration, Euro-scepticism and the support of traditional family values. And while it has taken time to match the success of its Danish counterparts in national elections, it has started to break through in the last decade.

In Sweden’s 2010 general election it captured 5.7 percent of the vote, almost doubling the party’s previous result. And then in 2014, it grabbed 12.9 percent.

It is believed the party initially suffered due to an image problem resulting from its roots in the 1980s Swedish fascism movement. Anti-fascist organisation Expo revealed that 45 of Sverigedemokraterna’s candidates standing in the 2010 local elections had connections to far-right and white power movements.

While this may harm its image, the party has still made considerable headway since 1998 when it secured only 0.4 percent of the national vote. A boycott on printing advertisements for the Sverigedemokraterna was also lifted by two out of three major media publications in 2006.

Speaking to TV2 News after the announcement that Kjærsgaard would step aside at DF, Sverigedemokraterna leader Jimmie Åkesson explained how DF had operated as his party’s role model.

“Our respective parties have similar positions on many issues, and DF has often acted as a source of inspiration, not least because they are always a step ahead of the curve,” Åkesson told TV2 News. “We have often thought: ‘If DF can do it, we can do it.’”

This story was first published in September 2012.

 

Pia Kjærsgaard through the years


23 Feb 1947: Pia Merete Kjærsgaard is born in Copenhagen.

1963: Finishes Gentofte Skole.

1967: Marries Henrik Thorup.

1978: Becomes a homecare worker and joins Fremskridtspartiet (Z).

1984: Becomes an MP after replacing Z’s party leader at the time, Mogens Glistrup, who received a three-year prison sentence due to tax evasion.

1989: With Kjærsgaard as deputy chairman,  Fremskridtspartiet begins moving away from a libertarian policy and towards opposing bureaucracy, income taxes and lax immigration protocol. Kjærsgaard is named politician of the year by landsforeningen for erhvervsinteresser.

Kjærsgaard in 1995 when she established DF

1990: Kjærsgaard says that 90 percent of the refugees who come to Denmark are refugees of convenience who only want social benefits.

1995: Co-founds Dansk Folkeparti (DF) with Kristian Thulesen Dahl, Poul Nødgaard and Ole Donner.

1998: Dansk Folkeparti gets more than 250,000 votes and wins 13 mandates in parliament, their first big victory.

2001: Following 9/11, DF is more popular then ever. They win a massive 413,987 votes that November and rise from 13 to 22 mandates in parliament.

Kjærsgaard and Kristian Thulesen Dahl, her hand-picked successor2002: Kjærsgaard wins new friends when she stops the government’s proposed cutting of 650 million kroner for education. DF also begins to step up its strict immigration rules and Kjærsgaard is knighted as a ‘Ridder af Dannebrog’.

2012: Kjærsgaard announces that she intends to step down as head of Dansk Folkeparti after 17 years at its helm. She will assume the role of ‘values spokesperson’ and be replaced as leader by Kristian Thulesen Dahl, her hand-picked successor.

Outspoken: Pia Kjærsgaard’s memorable quotes

“It was been said that September 11 was the beginning of a struggle between civilizations. I disagree, because a struggle between civilizations would imply that there are two civilizations, and this is not the case. There is only one civilization, and it’s ours.”

- Parliament debate, 2001

“It irritated me endlessly that immigrants joined [public broadcaster] DR who couldn’t speak Danish properly. It’s because I’m Danish and I like Denmark.”

- From her book ‘Magten og Æren’ (The Power and the Glory)

“Is it populism to help ensure pensioners no longer have to put up with toothache, bad vision and sore feet? If that is the case, then yes, I don’t mind being called a populist.”

- Weekly newsletter, 2003

“I believe that Islam is a political movement. If you align yourself with Islam then you align yourself with law that is different to Danish law. That’s just the way it is. Otherwise you are a heretic in Mohammed’s eyes.”

- Jyllands-Posten interview, 2010

“I think it may be surprising to many that some of my close friends are homosexual and that I’m a big fan of garlic and Asian food. It doesn’t quite fit the stereotypes about DFers.”

- Information interview,  2010

 

Boat with syrian refugees off the coast of Sicily. (Photo: Vito Manzari from Martina Franca)
This Week’s Editorial: Tricky law followed by a piece of cake
Integration is the name of the game. The refugees are here – or on their ...
Fairies, batmen and ninjas gathered to participate in the old Danish tradition of beating the barrel
Kids Corner: Faster prep might be needed for the annual kids shinding
Fastelavn on 7 February is extremely early this year – actually the earli...
Christianity's most revered warrior tends to be Archangel Michael (photo: Luca Giordano (1632–1705)
How Christianity portrayed Jesus as a warrior to woo the Vikings
Despite more than 80 percent of Danes associating themselves with the Evang...
Snowden's trip back to the US had been arranged (photo: Elena Polio)
Justice minister admits that rendition plane was sent for Snowden
The justice minister, Søren Pind, has admitted for the first time that Cop...
YouSee goes full digital on February 9 (photo: YouSee)
YouSee haemorrhaging customers
Due to steep prices and better streaming offers elsewhere, the TV and inter...
In the period between 1978 and 2010, some 104 transgender Danes were approved for a sex reassignment surgery by the Sexological Clinic at Rigshospital (photo: iStock)
Waiting for surgery puts transgender people in Denmark under extreme pressure
A study published in the scientific magazine Journal of Sexual Medicine has...