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ELECTION 2019

Concern as party with ‘fascist tendencies’ nears approval for Danish elections

A party leader in the Danish parliament has called for cross-aisle discussions after an extremist right-wing group reached the requirement for participation in elections.

Concern as party with 'fascist tendencies' nears approval for Danish elections
Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish parliament. File photo: Maria Albrechtsen Mortensen / Ritzau Scanpix

The party, Stram Kurs – which translates to ‘Hard Line’ in English – is led by Rasmus Paludan, an Islamophobic agitator who has a criminal conviction under anti-racism laws, currently under appeal.

Paludan recently came to prominence through his attempts to hold anti-Islam demonstrations in areas with sizeable minority ethnic communities. Previous demonstrations have featured burning and desecration of the Quran.

A number of such demonstrations in and around Copenhagen this month were cut short by police and Paludan was denied permission to hold others after angry counter-demonstrators reacted violently, including by burning cars and waste containers and throwing cobblestones.

Police cited a “risk to public peace” in its decision to block the demonstrations after a hand grenade was found at the Blågårds Plads square in Copenhagen’s ethnically diverse Nørrebro neighbourhood.

Commenters have noted that, while many may disagree with Paludan’s views, Denmark’s constitutional principles on freedom of speech and public assembly give him the right to express them, and violent and threatening public behaviour should not be allowed to influence this.

READ ALSO: Why Denmark's commitment to free speech is not a free pass for Quran burning

But after Paludan’s party met the threshold for qualifying to contest elections – 20,000 letters of declaration from voters (vælgererklæringer in Danish) – concern over the dissemination of its virulent views has been expressed by Uffe Elbæk, political leader of the environmentalist Alternative party.

Elbæk has written to Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and the leaders of the other parties in the Danish parliament over the issue.

In the letter, Elbæk called for the PM to summon a meeting to discuss what he called “the new political situation”.

“For me, this is the first time we are seeing a radical right-wing party on the ballot papers,” Elbæk told Ritzau.

“This is in all senses a party – directly put – with fascist tendencies. I think that is a new political situation,” he added.

Paludan’s party wants to forbid Islam in Denmark and to deport from the country “all non-Western people who have been granted asylum, and who are not an original citizen of one of Denmark’s neighbouring countries”, Ritzau writes.

Elbæk stressed his support for free speech, but said the current situation presented “many democratic and ethical dilemmas”.

“It is far from certain we [the established parties, ed.] will agree. But I think we should assess the situation,” he said.

The Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), a left-wing opposition party, said it had received the letter and would attend any meeting on the matter.

The Danish People’s Party, a right-wing anti-immigration party which is currently the second-largest in parliament, is also prepared to attend, its deputy leader Søren Espersen said.

But any party with democratically elected representatives is entitled to be present in parliament, Espersen added.

“If Stram Kurs gets into parliament, it’s the will of the people for them to be in parliament. We can’t start dividing up into worthy and less worthy,” he said.

The Conservative and Liberal (Venstre) parties did not respond to comment requests from Ritzau, while the Social Democrats did not wish to comment on Elbæk’s letter.

The Ministry for Economic Affairs and the Interior must approve the voter declarations to rubber-stamp Stram Kurs’ presence on ballots for the coming general election, which must take place no later than June 17th.

READ ALSO: Far-right demos blocked as police find grenade in Copenhagen's Nørrebro

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GOVERNMENT

Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts

Transfer of power between governments can be associated with antagonism, ill feeling and tension. In Denmark, it is accompanied by the exchange of gifts.

Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts
Mette Frederiksen hands Lars Løkke Rasmussen his new cycling jersey. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The quirky tradition was continued on Thursday as Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen took over from predecessor Lars Løkke Rasmussen as head of government.

Tradition in Danish politics dictates that all outgoing ministers, including the prime minister, exchange gifts with their successors on the day portfolios officially change hands.

The gifts, often referred to in Danish as drillegaver (‘teasing gifts’), are normally chosen with an element of humour in mind, while not forgetting to reference political opposition.

As the keys to the PM’s office were exchanged at Christiansborg Palace, the seat of parliament on Thursday, Rasmussen handed Frederiksen a pair of gloves and blue trousers from a set of overalls.

“I’m now handing over a Denmark in top form. And that must be looked after. I know will you do that, Mette,” Rasmussen said.

“One of the keys to achieving that is for us Danes to pull on our working gear,” he added.

In response, Frederiksen gifted Rasmussen, known for his enthusiasm for bicycle racing, a polka-dotted cycling jersey, making reference to his tendency to “break away from the pack” during the election campaign.

“I hope you will be spending a lot more time cycling in future,” Frederiksen joked as she gave her predecessor the jersey.

Also noting that she had probably not seen the last of the Liberal (Venstre) party leader in politics, the new PM had warm words of tribute for Rasmussen, who has served two separate terms as the head of Denmark’s government, from 2009-11 and 2015-19.

She thanked him for a being a decent opponent and for “everything you have done for Denmark”.

Rasmussen, who was not short of joking remarks himself, said he “had a habit of handing over the keys to a Social Democrat”.

After losing the 2011 election, he gave then-Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt his government’s budget repurposed as a handbag, while Thorning-Schmidt gave Rasmussen a bus ticket.

Roles were reversed in 2015, when Rasmussen, having regained power, gave Thorning-Schmidt a selfie stick and received festival tickets in return.

The Danish tradition of giving gifts while handing over power is a modern one, having gradually emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Transition of power used to be very formal,” DR’s political commentator Bent Stuckert told Politiken in 2011. That is evidenced by the below video, which shows Anker Jørgensen making way for Poul Hartling in 1973.

The 2019 version, coming at the end of a long negotiation period to form government, continued Denmark’s overtly friendly approach to handing over the keys to power.

READ ALSO: Here is Denmark's new Social Democrat government

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