Denmark: crisis for the right despite strong Euro vote

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The big winner of the EU elections in Denmark was the right populist Danish People's Party. With 26.6 percent of the votes it became the biggest party and doubled its MEPs from two to four.

Surprisingly, the two centre-left government parties lost only a few votes and won 25.6 percent. Even more surprisingly, the left social democratic Socialist People's Party (SF) received 10.9 percent, down 5 percent. Until recently it had been part of the centre-left government for well over two years.

After realising that this had sent the SF into a virtual collapse with less than 4 percent in opinion polls, it withdrew from government, elected a new leader and slowly began to recover.

The EU elections showed that the SF is far from dead. It now gets 6.5 percent in national opinion polls.

The People's Movement against the EU (supported by the left Red-Green Alliance) won 7.2 percent (up 0.9 percent) and kept its only seat.

Crisis for the right
At first glance this fits well into a more general picture of far-right parties winning in many European countries. Indeed, many voters on the left in Denmark reacted with horror and disbelief. However, a closer look indicates that things are more complex and contradictory.

The EU elections came when the main bourgeois party, Venstre, was in deep crisis. Then the media could tell that its chairman, Lars Lokke Rasmussen (former prime minister and expected by everybody to become the next one), had been a little too eager spending other people's money - too expensive suits, too expensive flights, etc. Nothing criminal (probably), but a lot of Venstre's members and voters were outraged.

At the EU elections Venstre polled only 16.7 percent, 10 percent less than in 2009. This is where most of the Danish People's Party votes come from. (Surprisingly, on 3 June the 132 members of Venstre's executive committee unanimously decided not to sack Rasmussen as chairman - even after many local branches and MPs had demanded his resignation!)

The Danish People's Party (DF) is a racist and anti-immigrant party and is anti trade union. However, in its election campaign racism and immigration had been virtually absent - and have played a much less prominent role in its rhetoric the last couple of years. Since its founding chairwoman, Pia Kjaersgaard, retired in 2012 it has tried to position itself as a "welfare party" defending pensions and so on. Sometimes it even calls itself the "real Social Democrats"!

This is ludicrous for a party which for ten years had voted for every cut made by a right wing government - and even today votes for most of the much harder cuts made by the centre-left government.

Yet it is exactly these years as a support party for the former government, and its many councillors, which underscore its move towards becoming a populist version of the more traditional conservative party.

Symbolically, in the EU parliament it now seeks to move from the group "Europe of Freedom and Democracy" (dominated by Ukip and the Italian Lega Nord) to the "European Conservatives and Reformists" (dominated by David Cameron's Tories).

We are in a situation with severe cuts from a government led by Social Democrats - and supported by all other parties, except the Red-Green Alliance.

There is little fightback. In such a situation many voters are moving around, looking for a party which is less crooked than the rest. At the moment the Danish People's Party is gaining heavily from this.

DF's racism may come back. Probably it will, and the left should prepare for this. But this should not be seen in isolation from the main problem - that the left has to win the argument for a more generalised fightback against the attacks from the government and the bosses, and at the same time try to build a socialist alternative within such a resistance.

Our shield should be the fight against racism and fascism, but our sword should be the fight against the cuts that feed these ideas.