Denmark's election a litmus test for Europe's far-right politics
Denmark's election Thursday is the first national poll in northern Europe to gauge appeal for radical politics since the Norway killings carried out by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik.
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For European radicals, the DPP is a giant oak under which to gather and learn, a model of organization and discipline. “The Sweden Democrats copied their program wholesale,” says Tufts University political scientist David Art, author of “Inside the Radical Right.”Skip to next paragraph
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Feeling no responsibility for Breivik
Breivik’s manifesto quotes Norwegian blogger “Fjordman,” who calls the DPP the only party with “real spine.” The DPP’s winning formula, imitated by Wilders and others, is to align itself with the main Danish party, share power and press for results, but avoid any responsibility to govern. “They are the prototype,” says Mr. Art. “They get credit for leading but don’t suffer the responsibility of incumbency.”
Wilders’s Dutch Freedom Party operates the same way. The formula “gives them the freedom to do and say many things they would not otherwise be able to say or do, things that used to be taboo, in terms of decency,” says Ms. Meret.
“A lot of critics since [the Breivik killings] have asked us to change our political approach or our rhetoric. We don’t feel responsible in any way ... why should we?” says a DPP leader, Soren Espersen ahead of tomorrow's election. “Our party is blamed for everything. It is blamed for 9/11, for the London bombings. The Muhammad cartoon is our fault. But we have broad shoulders, and we can take it.”
DPP offices are in the basement of the Danish parliament that dominates central Copenhagen. Across the hall from Mr. Espersen, party leader Pia Kjaersgaard, whose folksy charm is a party asset, pops in and out. One is reminded of a quip comparing the DPP with churlish far-right groups: “So clean, you can bring them home.”
Espersen wears jeans and a polo shirt and has the appearance of a man who might coach soccer. An former journalist who became a DPP “spin doctor,” he speaks easily and casually. He disagrees with the “clash of civilizations” theory made popular by Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis that was often cited by Breivik. “That suggests Muslims have a civilization,” he says. “It is maybe a question of civilization and noncivilization. Ataturk said there was only one civilization and that was the Western world.”
Espersen goes on: “We are not against Muslims but against Islam taking political control of our society and canceling our democracy. Islam [represents] the same danger as communism or the Nazis.”
When asked for an example of a Muslim who espouses Islamic law (sharia) and who has made inroads into the Danish government, Espersen concedes that “Islam has made no inroads here.” But, he says, Muslims are beginning to influence Britain. “Why should we make the same mistakes?”
He draws a line between his beliefs and Breivik’s actions: “Breivik may agree with everything we agree with, but when you take the step of killing civilians, you are a terrorist. He is definitely a terrorist. But that has nothing to do with us,” he says.