“Now we risk a vote on the EU”

Change in the government coalition in Copenhagen after the government coalition. The opinion of Nik Bredholt, president of Justitia et Pax Denmark

Change at the helm in Copenhagen after the results of the elections of June 18, that created a political landscape not devoid of oddities: the first Danish woman prime minister, the Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt leaves the scene, although her party was the most voted (26.3%, + 1.5% compared to 2011); former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is back in power. The leader of the liberal-conservatives (Venstre), the third party in terms of preferences (19.5%) lost 7.2% approval compared to the last election and was topped by Danish People’s Party (DPP, 21.1%, an increase of 8.8% of votes), which for the first time will enter the government. Migration, welfare state, were the themes brandished in the pre-electoral debate. Nik Bredholt, president of Justitia et Pax Denmark, interviewed by Sarah Numico for SIR Europe, commented the outcomes of the electoral round. The novelty – which immediately hit the news throughout Europe – is the triumph of the populist movement Dansk Folkeparti. What are the reasons for this success? “During the election campaign surveys had come very close to the results of the election. What is depressing is not the result as such but the climate of the election campaign. The unexpected factor is that the People’s Party will not enter the centre-right coalition; it’s stronger that than the Venstre party of the Premier and therefore forming and leading a new government is bound to be a great challenge. A DPP Premier wouldn’t be possible. DPP is a new, populist party, it originated in a tradition of protest and dispute and never sat in the government, although it supported several governments since 2001. On the other hand the liberals, the so-called ‘blue party’, have a long tradition at the lead of the government and would not accept the DPP leader as Prime Minister”. Social-democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt must pass the baton, although the economic indicators of the past months were extremely positive. How can this be explained? “Evaluations on the achievements of the Thorning-Schmidt government are controversial. Economic indicators are definitely positive, but many of her political choices went against the policy of her party; polls showed a major defeat”. To what extent did the memories of the terrorist attack of past February in Copenhagen and the fear it could have triggered impact the Danish electorate’s vote? “Certainly there was an influence, but that was not the main reason. In the last ten years, the DPP registered steady growth. The change in leadership in 2012, from the brazen Pia Kjærsgaard, to Kristian Dahl Thulesen, a nice young man, elegant, kind, has attracted a lot of votes, even if the political line has not changed. The explanation is to be found in the same Danish people, who are not accustomed to so much diversity as registered in other countries. They are more homogeneous, smaller, fearful; one might call it a tribe, rather than a nation. For example, our social system works very well, and people are afraid of losing benefits by welcoming immigrants or asylum seekers. And these aspects have been strongly emphasized in election campaign”. What political forecasts could be made in areas such as migrations or relations with the EU? “By tradition the government parties have always supported the EU, but the DPP is much more critical and views Great Britain as an example. It could also propose a referendum on EU membership. They will probably want to limit migration and freedom of movement. Perhaps the strong tones used in the election campaign will decrease, but they will certainly limit or suspend the Schengen agreements. I don’t know how the EU will react in case of this violation of Community regulations”. Words such as solidarity, common good, that belong to the Catholic tradition but are shared also by the Lutheran majority Church, where are they to be found in Denmark? “Here in Denmark Catholics are not the only ones to encourage solidarity. Recently, two Lutheran bishops said described the government’s proposal to cut funding for aid to development an ‘act of cowardliness’. In fact, under many aspects the new government will resemble the previous one. There could be some restrictions in the area of asylum, some criticisms to the EU, but not much else”.

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