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POLITICS

Racism in Denmark: Video of abuse sparks debate over political tone

A video of a racist verbal attack on a family with two small children spread virally on Danish social media over the long weekend, giving rise to debate about the effect of political discourse on public behaviour and attitudes.

Racism in Denmark: Video of abuse sparks debate over political tone
An illustration photo showing people in Copenhagen. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

In the video, recorded at Kastrup Harbour near Copenhagen, a man shouts at the family “why don’t you piss off to your own country” and “look at your skin colour, you’re yellow, you don’t belong here”, amongst other things. It can be viewed here on broadcaster DR’s website and has also been shared many times on Facebook and Twitter. The identity of the man has not been made public.

Politicians from all mainstream parties have condemned the incident, including representatives of the anti-immigration, populist right wing Danish People’s Party.

In a statement issued on social media, immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said he was “sad” to hear about the video.

“But it was also great to hear how passers-by and the police dealt with the situation. Stop racism. Together for Denmark,” he added.

Social media commenters argued that Tesfaye’s party is amongst those to have fuelled racial tension with its strident rhetoric against immigration, often specifically from Middle Eastern countries. The tweet linked below, posted by Social Democratic immigration spokesperson Rasmus Stoklund, contains numerous such comments.

Stoklund, who expresses his sympathy for the family in the tweet and condemns the incident, is himself a divisive figure and was most recently criticised for including a picture of garden weeds in a Facebook post about foreigners in Denmark who have committed crimes, and whom the country wants to deport.

The Social Democratic citizenship spokesperson, Lars Aslan Rasmussen, called the incident “clearly racist” in comments to DR, but said that Denmark was generally a tolerant country and denied Muslims were targeted by his party’s rhetoric.

“I don’t think we have a general problem with racism in Denmark,” he claimed.

That view was not shared by Pernille Skipper of the left wing Red-Green Alliance.

“All the politicians who don’t think we have a problem with racism but who also ‘sympathise with the family’ have simply not grasped how normal this actually is,” Skipper said according to DR.

“This is not an outlier – it was just captured on video,” she also said.

The mother from the family targeted in the video, Kodes Hamdi, told DR she was “tired of turning the other cheek and saying ‘never mind’ and moving on”.

“Because this isn’t the first time (it’s happened),” she added.

“I just needed my network to know how I’m being treated along with my children just because we have a different skin colour and because I wear a headscarf,” she said in reference to her decision to post the video on social media.

Copenhagen Police confirmed to the broadcaster that officers were present at Kastrup Harbour on Saturday.

READ ALSO: Plan for new ‘expulsion centre’ reignites debate over Denmark’s treatment of unwanted foreigners

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POLITICS

How likely is Denmark to have a general election ahead of schedule?

Analysts in Denmark say Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen could announce a general election as early as next week, despite flagging poll numbers.

How likely is Denmark to have a general election ahead of schedule?

Speculation suggests that Frederiksen will announce an election, which could take place by October but possibly earlier, when the Social Democrats convene next week for their summer group meeting. 

Legally, the next general election can take place as late as June 4th, 2023. 

But despite worsening polls, a general election in Denmark this autumn now appears likely due to increasing pressure on Frederiksen from other parties and heightened criticism of her government.

“It will not be possible to make any new, broad political agreements on this side of a general election. There’s no willingness to compromise between parties. So Danish politics is already frozen by the election campaign, even though it hasn’t been formally announced yet,” TV2’s political editor Hans Redder said last week.

Redder said it was “relatively probable” that Frederiksen will announce an election in August.

“The political season begins next week. Several parties will have their summer group meetings and start calling press briefings. So it’s just a question of which date Mette Frederiksen decides on,” Redder said.

The Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, which is an ally of the government, has demanded Frederiksen call a general election by October 4th.

Although a new general election is not due until next year, the Social Liberals earlier in the summer said they wanted an election by October after the government and Frederiksen were severely criticised earlier this summer in an official inquiry into the mink scandal.

The Social Liberals have the ability to bring down the government by withdrawing their support for Frederiksen and bringing an no confidence motion in parliament, although it’s not certain they would actually do this.

In addition to the mink scandal, Frederiksen’s government has been damaged by a high-profile case centred around leaks at intelligence service Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), as well as broader criticism of her leadership style.

“(Frederiksen) really needs some wins and we have not heard much about what their election platform will be. That will come when the 2030 (political) plan is presented,” political analyst Hans Engell told news wire Ritzau.

“Bad opinion polls are not conducive to an early general election and it doesn’t seem as though there is complete clarity over their 2030 plan. They are probably keeping all their options open,” he said.

Talk of an early election comes despite poll numbers looking as bad for the government as they have at any time since they came to power in 2019.

A new opinion poll by Voxmeter for news agency Ritzau on Monday gave the Social Democrats their worst showing since 2015. 

The ‘blue bloc’ — anchored by the Liberal party (Venstre) and the Conservative party — command 50 percent of the vote according to the latest poll.

Meanwhile, the government’s ‘red bloc’ holds just 47.5 percent. 

The demands that Frederiksen hold elections by October at the latest come from the Social Liberals, also of the red bloc.

The ‘bloc’ classification commonly referred to in Danish politics broadly denotes whether parties are right or left of centre.

‘Blue bloc’ parties will usually work together in parliament and back the leader of the Liberal party to be prime minister if they can command a majority after a general election. The ‘red bloc’ will usually support the Social Democratic leader to become PM, as is currently the case with Frederiksen.

READ ALSO: Danish PM Frederiksen loses majority in ‘neck and neck’ new poll

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