Are Denmark's Social Democrats a good role model?

Denmark is poised for a change of government after the Social Democrats led by Mette Frederiksen emerged as the strongest party in the general election. The Danish People's Party, by contrast, saw its share of the vote halved. The outcome of the election is widely attributed to Frederiksen having copied the right-wing populists' hardline stance on immigration. Europe's commentators discuss the change of strategy.

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Handelsblatt (DE) /

A victory for pragmatic realpolitik

Mette Frederiksen has shown that social democrats can win elections when they stand for clear goals, Handelsblatt writes:

“What did Denmark want? More welfare state and funding for education and health, less immigration, and a clear commitment to fighting climate change. Frederiksen endorsed all of that - and she was rewarded for it. ... And yet on election night commentators were warning of 'a dangerous shift to the right' and even the abandonment of classic leftist positions. However the fact is: Frederiksen is very serious about defending the very modern Danish welfare state against any form of extremism. Her victory is not a 'defeat for humanity', but a victory for pragmatic realpolitik, which is finally saying goodbye to its cherished illusions.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Betraying social democratic principles

Der Standard takes a different view entirely:

“In order to win votes Frederiksen has adopted the right-wing populist narrative of immigrants being to blame for the cuts in social benefits as part of the Social Democratic programme. Once a scapegoat has been found you can just let globally operating companies that use legal accounting tricks to avoid paying billions in taxes get on with their business. But Frederiksen is betraying social democratic principles by going along with this. That won't work in the long term.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Winning thanks to right-wing populist tactics

Clearly the left only wins when it emulates the far right on key issues, columnist Federico Rampini comments in La Repubblica:

“The Social Democratic leadership took a hard line on immigration. It complemented its classic leftist 'welfare' programme - increased public spending, higher taxes for the rich - with a restrictive immigration policy to guarantee one of the most generous welfare states in the world. It has learned its lesson from Sweden, where voters have rewarded the far right in reaction to an uncontrolled influx of immigrants (that has seen their numbers triple in Sweden) who until recently acquired all the social rights and benefits for which the Swedes have been paying high taxes for generations soon after their arrival.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Sweden must not follow in Denmark's footsteps

In reality it was the Danish People's Party that won because the Social Democrats simply adopted their agenda, Sydsvenskan observes with concern:

“The developments in Denmark are remarkable. And scary. The voters should have given the right-wing populists a slap in the face. But in this case they missed their mark. Intolerance has won the day in yet another election. Those in charge in Sweden must counter this trend. They must keep their distance. And take care to maintain the right balance.”

Jydske Vestkysten (DK) /

Immigration policy poses a dilemma

Mette Frederiksen is facing tough coalition talks, Jydske Vestkysten comments:

“The [red-green] Unity List wants a relaxed economic policy and a liberalised immigration policy, the Socialist People's Party SF wants more teachers and many other things, but the biggest challenge for Frederiksen will be to please Morten Østergaard [the leader of the Radical Left party]. He has called for substantial relaxation of the immigration policy, but on economic policy he belongs to the conservative camp. ... Introducing a softer immigration policy will, however, be impossible for Frederiksen if she doesn't want to revive the nightmare of broken promises from the Thorning era [former social democratic head of government] and lose a large number of voters.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Right-wing populists triumphant in defeat

The formula with which the established parties are keeping the right-wing populists at bay may be effective but it is also dangerous, warns Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“They are rendering the right redundant by moving to the far right in their immigration and refugee policies. Over the last two decades the right-wing populist Danish People's Party has changed the politics and society of the country without ever having been in power. ... Consequently the defeat of the right-wing populists this Wednesday is at the same time their triumph: with their ever narrow-minded, sometimes absurd and increasingly inhumane agenda they have infected all the other politicians and to some degree shaped Denmark in their own image.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

This isn't the end of it all

Aftonbladet also believes that the Danish People's Party has in fact won a victory in these elections:

“In the words of author Carsten Jensen, the DPP has 'captured the souls of the centrist parties'. On the far right the parties Stram Kurs [which didn't enter parliament] and The New Right are growing thanks to their promise to abolish all benefits for immigrants and ban Islam. In Danish electoral debates Stram Kurs leader Rasmus Paludan spoke of how Denmark could most effectively be ethnically cleansed. ... The question is whether things will really go no further than they already have.”