The populist Danish People’s Party is expected to see its share of the vote as much as halved when the country goes to the polls tomorrow after a dramatic swing to the right on immigration by the centre-Left Social Democrats.
The anti-immigration party, which has transformed politics in Denmark over the past two decades, was on Tuesday evening tipped to win just 10.9 percent of the vote, according to a poll of polls put together by the Berlingske newspaper, down from more than 20 percent in 2015.
Kenneth Kristensen Berth, the party’s EU spokesperson, told a meeting of international journalists last week that party would not change course, despite facing the most difficult period in its history.
“We are where we are whether it’s sunshine and smooth weather or whether we are in a hurricane,” he said. “We are not a party that changes our viewpoint due to election winds.”
Kristian Madsen, political analyst at the Politiken newspaper, told the Daily Telegraph that the Social Democrats had taken a “big step to the right” on immigration under their new leader Mette Frederiksen.
“They’ve not only tried to neutralise the subject but they’ve more or less embraced the agenda of the right-wing populists, saying, ‘yeah you know they were actually right all along, this criticism of us being too lax on immigration was correct and now we’re adjusting it’.”
The party has proposed sending asylum seekers to special reception centres outside Europe while their requests are processed, called for a cap on the number of “non-Western” immigrants, and voted in favour of a burqa ban and a law allowing jewellery to be stripped from refugees.
The shift has paid off.
A poll of polls put together by the Berlingske newspaper gives the party 27.2 percent of the vote compared to just 18 percent for the centre-Right Liberal Party. The red bloc of Left-of-centre parties is a full nine points ahead of the blue bloc, with a 54.9 percent majority.
The centre-Right liberals have also adopted the Danish People’s Party’s tough line, with immigration minister Inger Støjberg keeping a list of 114 new restrictions on immigration her government has driven through. When she passed 50 she celebrated with a cake.
At the same time two new parties, The New Right and the extremist Hard Line party, are outflanking the Danish People’s Party to the right while climate change has replaced immigration as the most important issue for voters.
Nicolai Wammen, the Social Democrats’ political spokesperson, said on Monday that his party had “a positive feeling about this election”.
“But one should be very much aware of the fact that Danish elections are always very close,” he warned.
Rather than go into coalition with their allies on the Left, as Helle Thorning-Schmidt did in 2011, the party hopes to form a one-party minority government, taking support from the right to drive through a tough immigration policy, and from the left to push forward its social and environmental agenda.
The Danish People’s Party’s hope is that the Left-of-centre parties will instead force them to soften the current government’s regime on immigration and integration.
“I think that many of the people voting for the Social Democrats will be very disappointed if this happens,” said Mr Berth, the EU spokesperson.
Many of the anti-immigration voters the centre-left has won back will then return.
“Other parties have tried to attract voters from our base…but we are still optimistic, because we are the real deal.”
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