• Denmark's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Danish immigrant party challenges populist right

Sören Billing/AFP · 18 Oct 2014, 07:09

Published: 18 Oct 2014 07:09 GMT+02:00

A political party targeting the immigrant vote by advocating looser immigration laws and "a ban on banning" religious symbols has launched in Denmark amid record support for the populist right.
 
"The prevailing discourse has taken a marked shift to the right. We stand here more than 40 years after our parents arrived, still discussing whether this is where we belong," National Party (Nationalpartiet) leader Kashif Ahmad said at a press conference on Thursday.
 
With a logo sporting the Danish flag, the party claims "Danish values such as respect, tolerance and peaceful coexistence" had come "under attack" as more politicians adopt the rhetoric of the hugely successful rightwing Danish People's Party (DF).
 
"We are Danish. I feel in Danish, I think in Danish and I dream in Danish," said Ahmad, who is of Pakistani heritage and co-founded the organisation with his two brothers.
 
DF was one of the first anti-immigrant parties in Europe to enter the political mainstream as conservative governments in Denmark between 2001 and 2011 relied on its support in parliament in return for ever tighter rules on immigration. A shaky economic recovery helped it become the country's biggest party in this year's European election, gaining more than one in four votes.
 
"Every election since 2001 has been with foreigners as a central theme," said Ahmad.
 
"Through the years, many of the parties have gone in the same direction and with time it has become difficult to distinguish political statements from the right... and the left," he added.
 
"Unwanted guests"
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democratic party campaigned on a platform that included more humane immigration policies, but since taking power in 2011 her government has done little to roll back the restrictive rules imposed by DF.
 
Last month she said her government would introduce a new, temporary type of residence permit and delay family reunifications for asylum seekers fleeing civil wars such as the Syrian conflict after a steep rise in the number of applications.
 
 
Leftist politicians also appear to have been influenced by the rhetoric of their opponents. A leading Social Democratic politician was this week quoted as saying that asylum seekers were "unwanted guests" in Denmark.
 
A lawmaker for the main opposition party, Venstre, in June suggested that immigrants be treated differently depending on whether they were "Christian Americans, or Swedes, or Muslim Somalis".
 
The National Party denied that its main constituency would be Danes of foreign descent, but in more than a nod to Denmark's immigrant communities, it has made abolishing the contentious "24-year rule" one of its six key issues. The rule prohibits foreign spouses from living in Denmark with their Danish partner util they have reached the age of 24. It was meant to reduce the
number of forced marriages, but critics say it violates international norms.
 
 
Other planks include scrapping the so-called "connection requirement", which means family reunifications can only be granted if the family's "combined connection to Denmark is greater than their combined connection to another country".
 
The National Party's leader Kashif Ahmad. Photo: Linda Kastrup/Scanpix
The National Party's leader Kashif Ahmad at Thursday's press conference. Photo: Linda Kastrup/Scanpix
 
The National Party also wants to ensure there are no restrictions on wearing religious symbols, such as the Muslim veil, in public, and says it wants to "look closer" at how the Palestine conflict could be resolved.
 
Neighbouring Sweden recently declared its intention to recognise a Palestinian state.
 
Story continues below…
Ahmad said Denmark's modest birth rates meant a fall in the number of foreigners coming to the country could jeopardise its high living standards.
 
"Economic analysis shows that we will lack 250,000 [people in the workforce, ed.] if we want to maintain the same level of welfare as the Swedes have in 2030," he said.
 
To stand for the Danish parliament a political party has to collect about 20,000 signatures from the public, a target even well-known politicians have struggled to reach. The National Party claimed to already have 7,000.
 
Still, experts were doubtful the party would gain any seats in the next election, which has to be held by September next year.
 
Peter Nannestad, a political science professor at Aarhus University, said there were already parties that supported most of its policies, they just weren't among the more powerful players in parliament.
 
"The only possibility I see for the National Party is that they mobilise the many immigrants who so far haven't been voting," he told daily Berlingske.
 
"But even if they do, I doubt it's enough," he added.

For more news from Denmark, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sören Billing/AFP (news.denmark@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Danish family reunification laws discriminate: court
The court said that Danish rules unfairly discriminate against those who obtain citizenship later in life. Photo: Colourbox

Denmark’s family reunification laws discriminate against those who achieve citizenship later in life, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday.

Brexit
Brit visits Copenhagen on Brexit fact-finding mission
Rebecca Sumner Smith plans to visit the 27 other EU countries before next month's referendum. Photo: Submitted

The Local caught up with British expat Rebecca Sumner Smith when she stopped in the Danish capital as part of her mission to speak to fellow Brits across the EU.

Copenhagen touts ‘organic food revolution’

An impressive 88 percent of all food served in the City of Copenhagen’s public institutions is organic, according to new figures released by the city.

SAS cancellations at Copenhagen to last days
The technical issues will leave SAS ten aircraft short. Photo: SAS

Technical issues with its flight of CRJ900 aircraft will leave SAS ten planes short through Thursday, causing the airline to cancel dozens of additional flights.

Danish teen jailed for Facebook terror threat
The man is a Danish citizen with a Lebanese background. Photo: Colourbox

19-year-old Aarhus man found guilty of encouraging terror by posting an Isis video.

'Inflatable refugee' visits Copenhagen on a mission
The 'Inflatable Refugee' is scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen on Monday afternoon. Photo: Schellekens & Peleman

A project meant to symbolize the journey refugees go through to reach Europe will arrive in the Danish capital on Monday.

My Danish Career
'My goal is to get Denmark eating pies'
Wild Kiwi Pies owner Stuart Thrush. Photo: Melanie Haynes

In the newest instalment of My Danish Career, The Local speaks with New Zealander Stuart Thrush, who traded out the corporate life for a Copenhagen pie adventure.

Toy 'arms race' turning Lego violent: study
Weapons are now included in 30 percent of all Lego kits. Photo: Caleb Wagoner/Flickr

"The Lego company's products are not as innocent as they used to be."

SAS cancels flights in and out of Copenhagen
Photo: Johan Nilsson/Scanpix

As of Monday morning, 17 departures and 22 arrivals at Copenhagen Airport had been cancelled due to a tecnical issue.

Denmark wins world badminton team title
Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark celebrates his victory against Anthony Ginting of Indonesia. Photo: Scanpix

Denmark beat Indonesia 3-2 in the Thomas Cup final Sunday, securing the nation's first world badminton team championship after racking up eight second-place finishes over the decades.

Society
Strangest political story in Denmark just got stranger
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
International
Keeping Denmark in Europol 'maybe impossible'
Analysis & Opinion
Green card holders tell Denmark to keep its promise
National
Denmark picks F-35 in historic jet purchase
Society
Denmark to no longer define transgender as mental illness
National
Danish minister tells 'Sharia' troublemakers to 'get a job'
Culture
Danish 'martyr' exhibit reported to police
National
Denmark extends 'temporary' border measures for sixth time
National
Denmark nears final decision on controversial fighter jets
Society
Muslim ‘girls only’ swimming sessions ripple Danish waters
National
Could Danes face a 'red meat tax' to help climate?
National
Denmark unable to process or issue visas
Denmark to go to war against Isis in Syria
International
Denmark to go to war against Isis in Syria
Business & Money
How Denmark’s national bank card is about to change
Culture
The best Danish bands you've (maybe) never heard of
Danes leaving the church in droves
Society
Atheist campaign gets Danes to leave the church in droves
Four Isis ‘recruits’ arrested in Copenhagen
National
Four Isis ‘recruits’ arrested in Copenhagen
Business & Money
Unwrapping Denmark's first zero-packaging food store
Travel
Copenhagen has world's highest transport prices
Analysis & Opinion
What's the deal with those 'wild' Danish kids?
National
Denmark prepares to take on 'hate preachers'
2,282
jobs available