WORLD

Denmark’s unlikely coalition

NANCY MACDONALD November 26 2007
WORLD

Denmark’s unlikely coalition

NANCY MACDONALD November 26 2007

Denmark’s unlikely coalition

NANCY MACDONALD

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has secured a third term for his governing bloc with a razor-slim majority of 90 seats—exactly the number required for majority governance. Rasmussen’s victory does not come as a surprise: pre-election polls predicted victory for the prime minister. And why not? The Danish economy is booming thanks to North Sea oil money, and unemployment has hit a 30-year low. Indeed, the big question during the campaign wasn’t the economy, but the potential impact of a new centrist party, the New Alliance—led by Naser Khader, a Syrian-born secular Muslim—at a time when the issue of immigration continues to divide Denmark.

Since 2001, Rasmussen’s Liberal Party has governed with the support of the virulently anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, Denmark’s third-largest political party and the driving force behind the country’s tightened immigration laws—now Europe’s toughest. (Under pressure from the DPP, Rasmussen slashed the number of migrants granted asylum by 80 per cent.) During the campaign, the DPP, known for its anti-Islamic rhetoric, criticized Muslim immigrants for not respecting Danish traditions, and taking advantage of the country’s welfare system. However, some Danish pundits predicted that the New Alliance, formed just six months ago, would win enough influence to temper the government’s hardline stance on migrants.

“The veto power must be taken away from the People’s Party,” Khader said during the campaign, promising his party’s support to Rasmussen in return for, among other things, a more humane refugee policy. But Khader, who has “democracy” tattooed in Arabic on his arm, won’t become Rasmussen’s kingmaker: his early support did not translate into enough votes to win that role. With just five seats, it’s likely that he’ll be left outside the prime minister’s coalition. For Rasmussen, taking on Khader would mean a broader bloc—but given the DPP’s politics, a much shakier one. M