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ELECTION 2019

High-profile anti-immigration spokesperson loses seat in Danish parliament

Martin Henriksen, the Danish People’s Party’s (DF) spokesperson on immigration, has lost his seat in parliament after the party’s crushing election defeat.

High-profile anti-immigration spokesperson loses seat in Danish parliament
Martin Henriksen visiting Lindholm, an uninhabited island where a facility housing foreigners sentenced to deportation will be located, in February this year. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe / Ritzau Scanpix

Henriksen ran in the Copenhagen greater municipality (storkreds), where DF was reduced from two seats to one, in an election which saw its national vote share slashed from 21 percent to 8.7 percent.

With fewer personal votes than parliamentary group leader Peter Skaarup, Henriksen was only second in line for a seat in the region, and therefore finds himself outside the Christiansborg legislature.

The loss of seat for Henriksen was confirmed on Thursday as votes received individually by candidates were reconciled with seats allocated to the ten parliamentary parties through Denmark’s system of proportional representation.

Henriksen, 39, who was first election to parliament in 2005, has emerged as a leading hardline voice on immigration and has maintained a consistently hostile position regarding foreign residents in Denmark.

In September 2018, he told news agency Ritzau that highly-educated foreign nationals had “(negative) consequences for linguistic and cultural cohesion” in the country, claiming that skilled foreign workers would create 'parallel societies'.

He added that, although the issue was less serious than that in underprivileged areas where crime rates and unemployment are above national averages, the presence of skilled foreigner workers in Denmark nevertheless meant that “we will end up living more divided (from each other)”.

In 2017, he said he wanted to stop foreign nationals from running in municipal and regional elections in Denmark.

Henriksen has opposed immigration minister Inger Støjberg’s scheme to help refugees enter the labour market through apprenticeships. He was a key proponent of the planned facility to house foreign nationals convicted of crimes and sentenced to deportation on an uninhabited island.

Speaking to TV2 on Thursday, Henriksen was pragmatic about the election result.

“That’s life sometimes. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the public and Her Majesty. Now I must find something else to do. I’ll take some time out, but it’s not pleasant to see a party you care about being halved (in the election),” he said.

Pia Kjærsgaard, the former leader of the Danish People’s Party and current speaker of parliament, said she regretted losing Henriksen as a colleague at Christiansborg.

“I’m very sad that Martin Henriksen wasn’t re-elected, I must say. He has worked so hard and this was a very big disappointment for everyone,” Kjærsgaard told DR.

The Danish People’s Party lost 21 of its 37 seats in the election.

READ ALSO: Samuelsen quits as Liberal Alliance leader after losing seat in election trouncing

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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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