There could be trouble ahead for the man destined to become Denmark’s first gay PM
There are several ways you could headline a story about Konservative leader Søren Pape Poulsen, one of three politicians in contention to become prime minister after the next general election, right now.
“Pape is flying high” is one. Since the last election, Konservative has added 19 seats in Parliament to hold 31 mandates, just 12 fewer that government party Socialdemokratiet and 11 clear of Blue Bloc cousin Venstre.
“Pape is flying low” is another, as the second favourite to become this country’s next PM is doing his best to remain below the radar, refusing to answer questions about a series of concerns relating to his husband Josue Medina Vasquez Poulsen, a national of the Dominican Republic.
In an age of misinformation
The public expect their politicians to tell the truth, or so we are led to believe. PM Mette Frederiksen’s popularity has plummeted of late, most likely because many Danes did not buy her explanation that she did not know her order to cull 17 million mink in late 2019 was illegal until after it was given.
But who really knows in these days of populism and social media posts that ‘the other half’ never end up seeing thanks to algorithms and general interference.
The media might as well have employed Boris Johnson and Donald Trump factcheckers in recent times, such was their tendency to fib with their every breath. But they both won elections.
And now the heir apparent to the biggest job in Danish politics has been caught out by a series of mistruths. Some are borderline mild, while others should perhaps be of serious concern to the electorate.
He’s like my nephew, capeesh?
First off, let’s look at the mild untruth: we’ve all seen ‘The Sopranos’, right, in which Tony has a nephew called Christopher. Wrong! That’s an affectionate term, as Christopher is in fact Tony’s cousin once removed.
Poulsen first made the claim that his husband was the nephew of Medina in 2014, when he was actually in power.
On September 8, he told TV2 that he should have been more precise about their relationship: “I don’t know how much they talk together, but I actually don’t think it’s the most interesting thing about me wanting to be prime minister.”
So he converted … like David Koresh?
Secondly, there is the matter of Poulsen claiming Josue Poulsen is Jewish. He made the claim in the Danish Parliament in front of prominent members of the Jewish community to underline that he is well advised regarding Jewish matters.
“It just so happens that my better half is Jewish. And has come to the synagogue from infancy with his family every Saturday,” Ekstra Bladet reported him as saying.
But then some fact-checking by the tabloid in both the Dominican Republic and Venzuela, the countries where Josue Poulsen grew up, revealed that his family were all members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian denomination they were fiercely committed to.
Initially, Pape came out fighting with a written comment: “I did not know that we had to register Jews in Denmark. You do that at Ekstra Bladet.” But since then he has remained silent.
Ministerial meetings on holiday
Finally, both Jyllands-Posten and Ekstra Bladet have revealed that Pape met senior members of the Dominican Republic administration in an ‘unofficial capacity’ in 2018 whilst he was the justice minister of Denmark.
Pape was on holiday, and concerns have been raised by Jeppe Kofod, the foreign minister, that such a meeting was deeply appropriate, as the government remains unaware of what was discussed, even though some details were reported in local Dominican media. Even more peculiarly, Danmarksdemokraterne leader Inge Støjberg, the then minister for immigration and integration, was also present.
“I find it highly problematic that today we cannot find out what was actually said. Because we need to know that when Denmark conducts foreign policy,” Kofod told Jyllands-Posten, who then spoke to Pape.
“My better half is from the Dominican Republic, so it was a great joy for me to get to know the country even better on a holiday trip, where we had the opportunity to visit people who could tell about the country. It was not an official visit, and those we met knew that very well,” he told the newspaper at the beginning of September.
But a week later, his tune changed: “As Ekstra Bladet and Jyllands-Posten have written, I have had meetings with politicians from the Dominican Republic. It is clear to me that I should not have met with those politicians without having previously informed and consulted with the Danish Foreign Service. I regret those meetings.”
My husbands has said things …
Via Facebook over the past week, Pape has addressed the series of “misunderstandings”, but it is not clear exactly what he is referring to (other than throwing his husband under the election bus), beyond his regret regarding the 2018 meetings.
“My husband has said things that are wrong, while other things are based on misunderstandings. This is information that I have also passed on, but in good faith,” he wrote on Facebook.
“I am sorry about that. There are also some meetings with politicians in the Dominican Republic that I shouldn’t have had. Of course I shouldn’t have done that. Of course I resent that. But now I want to move on, because there are also many things that need to happen in Denmark, and which are more important for the Danish population.”
Konservative held its AGM over the weekend where a large banner with a photo of Pape proclaimed him “Denmark’s next prime minister”. It’s optimistic, but should it come true, expect some big bumps along the way.
It is widely expected that an autumn general election could be called any day now.