Demark’s general election – a shift against the racist right

By Robin Jackson

The Danish General Election on 5 June resulted in a defeat for the ‘blue bloc’, the centre-right governing alliance that had been in office since 2015, and a victory for the ‘red bloc’, the centre-left parties.

The principal losses were suffered by the far right. The populist anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party saw its vote share collapse from 21.1 per cent in 2015 to 8.7 per cent (a fall of 12.4 per cent).

In the right wing press, the advance of the centre-left bloc has been falsely attributed to the harsh anti-immigrant stance of the Social Democrats – the largest party in that bloc. That is not what happened. The Social Democrat Party’s share of the vote decreased – it did not increase. In fact the political parties that primarily made gains in the centre-left bloc were those that campaigned against the previous Danish government’s xenophobia.

On the ‘red bloc’ side the principal gains were made by parties that opposed the politics of the anti-immigrant right – the Social Liberals and the Socialist People’s Party. The Social Liberal Party increased its vote share from 4.6 per cent to 8.6 per cent (up 4.0 per cent) and the Socialist People’s Party’s (SF) vote share rose from 4.2 per cent to 7.7 per cent (up 3.5 per cent). The Social Liberals are pro-immigration, pro-Europe and pro-environment opponents of right-wing populism and they campaigned for a clean break with the racism of the previous Danish government. Similarly the Socialist People’s Party campaigned against the rhetoric and policies in Denmark that target immigrants, refugees and Muslims.

The largest party in the ‘red bloc’, the Social Democrats, saw its vote share decrease from 26.3 per cent to 25.9 per cent (down 0.4 per cent). Instead of distancing themselves from the harsh anti-immigrant policies of the centre-right government that took office in 2015, the Social Democrats gave the ‘blue bloc’ government support to pass anti-immigrant legislation. Social Democrat party members also played a part in various racist initiatives more commonly associated with the right wing, like a law allowing police to seize jewellery and other assets from refugees, a burqa ban and a plan to put some rejected asylum-seekers on an island previously used for infectious disease research.

As the leader of the largest party in the ‘red bloc’, Mette Frederiksen is in a strong position to become the country’s next prime minister. This is entirely due to the growth of the smaller parties in the centre-left bloc, whose votes she will need to form a government. It remains to be seen whether the Social Democrats will make any concessions on their harsh anti-immigration stance during the negotiations with the smaller left parties on forming a government.