Has a Folkemødet ever been better timed or more incendiary?
With an election just around the corner and controversial figures on the docket, many regular attendees of Folkemødet – Bornholm’s annual political Superbowl – have decided to sit out this year’s trip to the sunshine island.
Usually about 100 of the nation’s 179 MPs head to the Baltic island to press the flesh and be seen.
But this year, about half that number say they will be in attendance.
Mayor not disappointed
However, Winni Grosbøll, Bornholm’s mayor, is not disappointed by the expected turnout.
“There are still many politicians coming, and they are continuing with the programs they had in place,” said Grosbøll.
Every party leader will be present, along with most of the prominent members of the government.
Not wild about line-up
The upcoming election on Thursday June 18 is keeping many politicians at home, but some have dropped out for another reason.
An appearance by Islam critic Geert Wilders has caused several elected officials to opt out of Folkemødet.
Claus Bakke, a Venstre city councillor from Zealand who is running for Parliament this summer, is one of the politicians who will be staying home this year.
“I think that Geert Wilders and his extreme views represent a large security risk that will completely ruin my experience and the benefits of attending Folkemødet,” Bakke told DR.
Vordingborg mayor Knud Larsen questioned the extra cost.
“We will be paying tribute to democracy while we pay the police a lot of overtime,” he told DR.
“Of course I believe in free speech, but why should we allow a Dutch politician to increase the risk when we can easily discuss democracy anyway.”
Folkemødet founder Bertel Haarder disagreed. He said on his Facebook page that “we must show we are not afraid” and that Wilders will bring many more people to the meeting.
Grosbøll was surprised by the reaction, particularly as Wilders is making just one appearance – at a Saturday afternoon debate entitled ‘What threatens freedom of expression – and how do we defend it?’
“I think it would be a shame if you didn’t come because Geert Wilders was speaking for one hour out of a four-day meeting,” she said.
However, Wilders is not the only controversial attendee. Jylland-Posten’s foreign affairs editor Flemming Rose, who orchestrated the newspaper’s Mohammed Cartoons in 2005, is also due to appear, as are Georgios Epitideios from Greek nationalist party Gyldent Daggry and Daniel Carlsen, the 25-year-old leader of the ultra-right-wing party Danskernes Parti.
In total, there will be ten times as many police officers attending this year’s festival compared to last year. Claus Oxfeld, the chairman of the police association Politiforbundet, confirmed the increase, but refused to disclose an exact figure due to security issues.
Election the key focus
All of the major party leaders are scheduled to give their annual speeches from the main stage, spread out over the duration of Folkemødet.
Although many scheduled debates have been cancelled due to the recalcitrant MPs, Grosbøll said the election will supply plenty of fodder for the week’s activities.
“I am confident that the campaign will characterise Folkemødet,” she said. “Many of the debates will directly address the campaign.’
Still booked out
Many hotels and other rentals had reported cancellations due to the decisions of many politicos and networks not to attend, but those accommodations have been filled by people who had been on waiting lists.
According to Allinge Tourist Information, everything on Bornholm is booked up bar a few private rooms.