Pollsters have had a rough go of it over the past four years or so. Several high-profile misses have led to reassessment and caution throughout the industry. But no one has been the least bit bashful about Denmark, headed to the polls on Wednesday. As sure as the sun will rise over the Baltic Sea, the Kingdom will have a new Prime Minister. Actually, it almost happened two days early, as Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of the center-right “Blue Bloc,” and centrist Venstre party, was nearly hit by a falling roof tile outside the National Museum on Monday. The real winners, however, are likely to be the populist Danish People’s Party, as mainstream parties race to the right on immigration.
Since becoming Prime Minister in 2015, and needing the support of the DPP to survive, Rasmussen has followed a hard line on immigration. According to his Immigration Ministry, Rasmussen has tightened laws some 114 times. Parliament has passed laws banning the burqa, allowing officials to confiscate valuables from asylum seekers, and confining criminals who cannot be deported to a small island once used to quarantine diseased animals. Rasmussen wants to eliminate “ghettos”— neighborhoods with lower income and education levels, higher crime rates, and over 50% “non-Western” residents— by 2030.
Social Democrat Mette Frederiksen, leader of the opposition “Red Bloc,” has offered fairly standard center-left fare as part of her campaign platform. Her party will raise taxes on the rich and increase public and welfare spending to defend the country’s generous social safety net. However, unlike most social democratic parties across Europe, Frederiksen has also pledged to be even tougher on immigration than the Liberals. She wants an annual cap on “non-Western” immigrants and students. As Frederiksen said in a recent debate, “you are not a bad person just because you are worried about immigration.”
Opponents of this new hard line, both in and out of Denmark, have condemned the stigmatization of immigrants, and blamed these policies for a rise of racist abuse and discrimination. They also add that using immigrants and foreigners as scapegoats for Denmark’s problems, such as unemployment, ignores their underlying causes. Industry and commerce have argued the country, like many others across the west, faces a labor shortage. The blocs themselves are divided on the issue, differing from V and SD. The Liberal Alliance argues the best path to integration is through the labor market. The left-wing Socialist People’s Party and Red-Green want more liberal, UN-based approaches to immigration and refugees.
Those caught in the middle— or, perhaps, to the left of Venstre and the Social Democrats— might have a trump card, particularly when it comes to Frederiksen. “I’m not sure the negotiations to put her into office will be easy at all,” Professor Rune Stubager of Aarhus University told Euronews. “Not only have the green parties said they won’t back her but the social liberals have said if they don’t get concessions, including on immigration, they will contemplate voting for a motion of no confidence.” Still, depending on how the numbers add up, SD has not ruled out collaborating with the DPP, as Venstre did. Like they always say, if you can co-opt them and beat them, join them.