Wednesday June 5 sees the long-awaited general election taking place in Denmark.
Lagging behind in the polls, PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s number would appear to be up.
However, Venstre’s performance in Sunday’s European elections suggests his party is fighting back.
But with the other blue bloc parties losing support, is it too little to late, given the strength of the red bloc.
Last issue, CPH POST assessed three key battleground issues: health reform, the welfare state and taxes.
Now to complete the picture, we are taking on immigration, climate and education.
Battle severity: Agincourt
Agent provocateur: Morten Østergaard
Key incendiary device: Socialdemokratiet’s tough stance
Potential civil war: Radikale vs Socialdemokratiet
Potential casualties: DF trumped by the usurpers
Denmark’s next PM probably won’t soft-pedal on immigration policies and there might be less tolerance on immigration and more racism from both sides of the political spectrum.
More stick than carrot
Last year, the centre-right government’s burqa ban made worldwide headlines, with its fines of up to 10,000 kroner for repeated offences. The ban was passed by both the centre-right and left parties.
It was also decided that if necessary, immigrant families must enrol their children in extra schooling to be exposed to ‘Danish values’.
“There are two main arguments why non-western immigrants are being discouraged. Other than culture, economically it’s expensive for the state to take these immigrations,” Nils Holtug, professor of political philosophy at the University of Copenhagen, told CPH POST.
“In contrast, western immigrants bring in a net benefit of 30 billion kroner.”
There have been various waves of immigration since the beginning of the 1960s when a large number of Turks made their way to the Nordic countries as ‘guest workers’.
In 1983 Parliament passed a ‘Memorandum on migration policy’ that was implemented by the Danish Refugee Council and similar organisations. But over time, the act failed in its work of integration and many of these refugees remained unemployed.
There have been developments on immigration policies – specifically regarding Muslims. In 2016, new laws were promulgated by Venstre and its coalition partners aimed at preventing extremists from entering the country. Those who obtained residence permits had to swear under oath they would not pose a threat to public safety.
Under pressure from Dansk Folkeparti the island of Lindholm, originally used to quarantine sick animals, has been designated as a place to house asylum-seekers who have been convicted of crimes but cannot be deported for various reasons.
“It’s certainly a controversial project. The symbolic value is clear – seeing how it’s quite expensive to put immigrants there,” Holtug says.
Immigration and integration minister, Inger Støberg, has spoken out against these rejected asylum-seekers very negatively. “They are unwanted in Denmark – and they will feel it,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Socialdemokratiet is split on issues such as the economy and whether to drift towards the left, while its immigration policy lurches towards the right after having lost voters to the anti-immigration Dansk Folkeparti in the 2015 election.
Radikale isn’t happy with these adjustments and has said it will not support Socialdemokratiet’s Mette Frederikesen as prime minister in a possible coalition unless it drops its collaboration with DF on immigration.
At the other end of the spectrum, SF wants a more humanist approach to refugees based on the UN quota system rather than spontaneous asylum.
Enhedslisten is also in favour of a more liberal approach and says it would repeal the controversial 24-year-rule brought in to preventing arranged and forced marriages.
Alternativet wants a society built on solidarity and respect for the individual and for their cultural roots.
The blue bloc parties are divided – most particularly Venstre and Dansk Folkeparti.
“The views of both parties differ, as DF is advocating that would-be immigrants should stay where they are because they shouldn’t be here in the first place,” explained Holtug.
Venstre on the other hand takes a broader view, supported by industry bodies who argue that Denmark is facing a shortage of labour.
“There is a larger acceptance that immigrants should be integrated because they could be here for a long time,” added Holtug.
Konservative has vowed to confront what it calls the parallel society head on: foreigners must learn Danish, immigrants should support themselves, anyone wanting citizenship should embrace Danish values, and asylum-seekers should seek asylum outside Denmark’s borders.
Liberal Alliance feels the best path to integration is through the labour market. Denmark should be open, it contends, and welcome to those who want to contribute and closed to those who don’t.
Dansk Folkeparti would appear to be losing support among voters with extreme right sensibilities to two new parties, Stram Kurs and Nye Borgerlige, which will do just about anything to tighten immigration policies.
Stram Kurs (hard line), with Koran-burning lawyer Rasmus Paludan at the helm has made the most of the headlines generated by fierce riots in the city in April. The irony might be that only Dansk Folkeparti has said it will collaborate with Stram Kurs.