Danish Social Democrat leader faces criticism after 'using ethnicity' in Facebook debate

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish Social Democrat leader faces criticism after 'using ethnicity' in Facebook debate
Mette Frederiksen. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Mette Frederiksen, the leader of the opposition Social Democrat party, has been criticised after she appeared to suggest a commenter was less entitled to take part in debate because of her immigrant background.


Frederiksen responded to a comment from a user on her Facebook page who criticised the Social Democrat leader for her stance on immigration and an ongoing labour dispute in the Scandinavian country.

The commenter, a Danish-Somali woman, wrote that “the Social Democrats have lost my vote because of [Frederiksen]”.

“I would never put my cross next to a party whose current policies would have made it impossible for me to apply for asylum today,” the woman wrote, also referencing Frederiksen’s potential support for a possible lockout of public sector workers by state and municipal employers over the labour dispute.

“I fear you would change the tolerant and inclusive values in our wonderful municipality,” she added.

Responding, Frederiksen wrote “those are tough words coming from a young woman Denmark welcomed”.

“Of course there is a limit to how many people can come to Denmark for everyone to be able to work, learn the language and be part of Denmark,” she continued.

“The Social Democrat party does not interfere in conflicts relating to the Danish labour market. That’s how the Danish model works,” she also wrote in reference to the labour dispute.

A number of politicians criticised Frederiksen’s choice of words.

Citizenship spokesperson Jan E. Jørgensen of the governing centre-right Liberal (Venstre) wrote on Twitter that Frederiksen’s response was a “condescending remark”.

Pernille Skipper, political spokesperson with the left wing Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), accused the Social Democrat leader of suggesting non-ethnic Danes should not be allowed to take part in political debate.

“I can see that the Social Democrats think that you can’t have an opinion on the lockout of you’re a politician or of minority ethnic background. Unless you have the same opinion as them,” Skipper wrote on Twitter.

“What is going on with Mette Frederiksen? If you originally came here as a refugee you apparently don’t have the same right as others in Denmark to criticise the Social Democrats’ support for the lockout or their refugee policies?”, wrote Skipper’s party colleague Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, who is currently on maternity leave.

The woman who wrote the comment that sparked the issue, Aalborg social worker Hanna Mohamed Hassan, spoke to newspaper BT about Frederiksen's response.

“I simply don’t understand how a potential prime minister can use ethnicity in a debate about societal problems. Above anything also, I’m just a concerned citizen. That my concerns and critical questions are boiled down to me not being allowed to have an opinion because ‘Denmark has welcomed me’, I think is a very strange message to send and a scary view of humanity for a Social Democrat candidate for prime minister,” Hassan told BT.

Frederiksen herself later added a second comment to the Facebook thread.

“I can see that some people are presenting my response as saying that people may not comment. That is naturally not correct,” she wrote.

She later elaborated and apologised for the way she had made her point., saying that all were welcome in political debate.

“That’s why I’m sorry that my response to a Danish-Somali woman here on Facebook earlier today can be misunderstood. That’s my responsibility. I hope we can continue the debate from here on. And on equal terms,” Frederiksen wrote.

Asked for further comment by Ritzau, the Social Democrat leader referred the news agency to party MP Peter Hummelgaard, a member of parliament’s citizenship issues committee.

“This is about context. The woman brought her heritage into the discussion herself,” Hummelgaard said.

“But if you look at Mette Frederiksen’s first sentence alone, it can be misunderstood, and she has apologised for that,” he told Ritzau.

READ ALSO: Danish Social Democrat leader faces rejection on Labour Day


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