Friday

15th Nov 2019

Opinion

Next Le Pen is Danish and should be taken seriously

  • Vermund, a charismatic woman who recalls Wilders and Trump (Photo: News Oresund)

Civil war, treason, rape, persecution. Pernille Vermund, leader of the Danish far-right party “the New Conservatives”, has no shortage of words to describe Denmark’s dystopian future if immigrants have their way.

While her predictions seem an unlikely trajectory for the happiest country in the world, which houses fewer immigrants than any of its immediate neighbours - not taking her seriously may just help propel her to the top.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Like Wilders in The Netherlands and Le Pen in France, Vermund objects to "established politics" (Photo: European Parliament)

Referring to immigrants as lazy, disloyal, ungrateful and criminals, Vermund regularly lashes out at those who are sympathetic to immigrants because they "accept … the subjugation of women, children, homosexuals and non-Muslims."

Like Geert Wilders in The Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, Vermund objects to "establishment politics."

She levels harsh criticism at her political rivals for being "too soft" on immigration and for doing "too much talking."

Vermund’s anti-Islam sentiments and the rhetoric she uses to illustrate the gap between "the people" and "the elites" resonate with Danish voters. They commend her for her "straight talk" and ability to "get things done."

Rising star

The similarities with Donald Trump are striking. Her party polled at 4.8 percent in late February - impressive for one founded less than two years ago.

Similar to her European peers, Vermund’s party refrains from the homophobia, anti-Semitism and religious conservatism expressed by traditional far-right groups, claiming instead to defend liberal values against a new enemy: Islam.

Appeals to individual freedoms, calls for Denmark to leave the EU and ultra-liberal economic policies draw in voters who traditionally would have avoided fringe groups such as Vermund’s party.

This helps to explain how seven out of 10 of her potential voters are not only male, white and middle-aged, but also reasonably wealthy and in possession of a university degree.

Like Wilders, who is expected make substantial gains in the upcoming general elections in the Netherlands, Vermund’s chances of leading the country any time soon are very slim.

This is due in part to the system of proportional representation and Denmark’s tendency to form minority coalition governments, but it does not mean that she cannot still gain significant influence.

Not yet in parliament, and a relative new-comer on the political scene, Vermund is a talented communicator who comes across as calm, accessible, and to-the-point even when pressed on issues she does not appear particularly knowledgeable on.

A regular participant in mainstream political TV talk shows, and with a column in one of the most widely read tabloid newspapers in Denmark, she is both well-known and a frequent object of derision from much of the liberal left and mainstream media.

Her controversial statements are criticised in the most emphatic of terms, but attractive narratives are seldom offered to those who already agree with her, or those she might win over.

Home of hygge

The home of "hygge", the Danish word for a feeling of cosiness, Denmark has in recent years introduced legislation and initiatives labelled as draconian by both national and international media.

This includes most notably the passing of a law in 2016 that permits authorities to confiscate the personal possessions of asylum-seekers, and the government taking out advertisements in a Lebanese newspaper to dissuade refugees from coming to Denmark.

More recently, the Danish parliament issued a non-binding statement in February, which suggested that to be considered “Danish”, both of your parents must be Western.

Coming across as controversially anti-immigrant in an environment that has moved so far towards the political right might seem like a real challenge.

But Vermund and her party appear to be succeeding with their unusually harsh language, for example comparing the 1951 Refugee Convention to “Sharia law” because it - like sharia law, Vermund contends - is “out of touch with reality” and “a remnant of the past”.

Political outsider

As a charismatic woman in her early forties, she comes across as determined with strong opinions, a strong character and, to some, a charming person.

More importantly, she is a political outsider, much like Wilders and Trump were.

This is a quality that none of Denmark’s other political parties have, no matter where they are on the political spectrum.

It is a quality that appeals to voters who feel disenfranchised and ignored by the political system. A quality that may help her party get nearly 5 percent of the popular vote.

Most importantly, it is a quality that requires those wanting to thwart her political ambitions to take her seriously. Mocking her will do little good, as is clearly evident looking back at the US presidential election campaigns.

Although there are few similarities otherwise, Trump proved that being a political outsider does not mean you will not succeed, but to the contrary.

Ultra-liberal

With ultra-liberal economic policies, appeals to freedom and independence, and voicing a fierce anti-Islam sentiment, Vermund sounds every bit like her peers in the US and Europe.

The Danes must make every effort not to repeat mistakes from elsewhere. They must not discount Vermund. They must take her seriously, because she is being taken seriously by those who agree with her.

Instead of jeering at her, they need to come up with effective counter-narratives.

They have to find common ground with the people they disagree with, and discover new ways of relating to each other, to understand the lives and challenges of those who have become so deeply distrustful of the perceived political elites.

If they fail, Denmark might indeed be on the path toward a true dystopia after all.

Andreas Reventlow is an adviser at the Copenhagen-based non-profit International Media Support and a researcher with the Dangerous Speech Project.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Marine Le Pen spotted at Trump Tower

Marine Le Pen reportedly did not meet with anyone from the Donald Trump team following her unannounced appearance at the Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Le Pen wants to 'do away' with EU

The far-right presidential candidate said that she would create a "Europe of free nations", while taking France out of Nato command and "tie up" Russia to Europe.

Domino effect: Denmark follows Sweden on EU border checks

“May I see your ID?” - five little words on a train platform in Copenhagen on Monday mark the end of 60 years of Nordic free travel, as first Sweden, then Denmark impose new border checks amid the refugee crisis.

Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room

Over the years, both real and perceived levels of corruption in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia have remained high. The necessary reforms in those countries, to put it mildly, are not yet effectively carried out.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us