Gains for Denmark’s divided anti-immigration parties – but overall victory for left

Inger Støjberg, leader of the new anti-immigration party Denmark Democrats

In today’s Danish general election, the country’s bitterly divided anti-immigration parties made substantial gains.

As expected, the largest anti-immigration party in the new parliament will be the Denmark Democrats, formed only four months ago by Inger Støjberg, a former government minister who quit the liberal Venstre party last year. Venstre is liberal in the classical European sense, i.e. ‘right-wing’ on economics, but liberal in its social attitudes. As with such parties across Europe, this ideology has proved incapable of coping with the new era of ‘identity politics’ and the challenge of mass immigration by non-Europeans.

Støjberg’s party had already built a bloc of MPs in the old parliament who had followed their leader in defecting from other parties. In today’s election they polled 8.1% and won 14 seats.

The election was a disaster for Støjberg’s rival Morten Messerschmidt and his Danish People’s Party

The Denmark Democrats had already won defections not only from the mainstream right but also from the existing anti-immigration party, the Danish People’s Party – a right-wing populist party which unlike Støjberg has ‘left-wing’, big-state ideas on economic policy, but like many European nationalist parties is fanatically pro-Israel. Largely due to the failings of its leadership, the DPP had a disastrous election, falling to 2.6% and winning only five seats, compared to eleven at the previous election in 2019.

Yet another anti-immigration party, the New Right, polled 3.7% and won six seats (a gain of two since 2019).

The New Right, led by Pernille Vermund – another conservative who broke away from the mainstream right on the issue of immigration, advanced from four seats to six.

The election’s big losers were the mainstream conservative Venstre party who just about remained the largest opposition party but lost almost half of their seats, down from 43 to 23.

Incumbent social democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen seems certain to stay in office and will now have a choice of coalition partners: she can opt to rely on a range of left-wing and green parties, or attempt a more stable coalition including the centrist ‘Moderate Party’. The other big losers were Frederiksen’s former coalition partners, the Social Liberal Party, who had precipitated the election by bringing down her previous government in a row over the forced culling of mink during the CoVID pandemic. The Social Liberals lost nine of their sixteen seats.

What seems certain is that Danish resistance to the consequences of mass immigration will grow: what remains unclear is whether any united anti-immigration front will be possible.

Return of the Schleswig-Holstein Question!

Stefan Seidler celebrates his election to the Bundestag

In addition to the main parties mentioned earlier, it looks as though just one tiny party will make it into the Bundestag.

This is the ‘South Schleswig Voters’ Association’ (SSW), whose leader Stefan Seidler has won a seat, according to the preliminary results. This is the first time since the second Bundestag election in 1953 that a regionalist or national minority party has won a Bundestag seat. In those days the national minorities concerned were Germans who had been expelled from their homes in what had become Czech, Polish or even Russian territory, and had their own party – the All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and Deprived of Rights.

By contrast the SSW represents a small Danish-speaking minority who have lived in Germany from the creation of a united German state in 1871.

Obviously they didn’t pass the 5% threshold – they are a tiny regional party – and neither did they win a constituency. This party hadn’t even contested a federal election since 1961.

Waldemar Kraft (above, front row, far right) as a member of Konrad Adenauer’s cabinet in 1953. Kraft was the last leader of a regionalist / national minority party to be elected to the Bundestag, until Stefan Seidler’s election this week. Kraft’s party represented German refugees from several regions that had been taken over postwar by Czechs, Poles or Russians, leading to the expulsion of 12-15 million Germans from their homes.

There are 28 MPs in total elected from Schleswig-Holstein this time, 11 constituencies and 17 from the list. The SSW list polled 3.2% across Schleswig-Holstein, so that was just enough to get them one of those 28 seats, because as a party representing a ‘national minority’ they are exempt from the 5% threshold requirement.

Ideologically they are leftish-green, so I assume their MP would back the likely SPD-Green-FDP coalition.

But the reason they exist is to represent the Danish speaking population in Schleswig-Holstein, and the reason that exists is rooted in one of the most complex diplomatic disputes of the 19th century – the infamous ‘Schleswig-Holstein Question’.

Until 1871 Germany was divided into many different states/principalities/etc. that were a relic of the medieval age and the Holy Roman Empire: a patchwork of princes, dukes and dynastic traditions.

For centuries the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein (either side of the Holy Roman Empire’s northern border) had both been ruled by the Danish king, but with semi-independence as the Holstein part was German (and part of the Holy Roman Empire) and the Schleswig part was semi-German, semi-Danish.

Eventually there were two mid-19th century wars between Denmark and Prussia, one (1848-51) effectively won by Denmark; the second (1864) won by Prussia and its Austrian allies.

Denmark’s defeat at the Battle of Dybbøl in 1864 led to Schleswig-Holstein’s absorption into the new German state in 1871.

After the First World War, Germany lost the northern part of Schleswig to Denmark, but the southern part of Schleswig has remained German to this day, and is part of the German region of Schleswig-Holstein.

As with all these border disputes, a substantial community was stuck on the wrong side of the border, and since there was no IRA-type situation many of them stayed put, hence the need for a party representing their particular interests.

The British statesman Lord Palmerston, who was Foreign Secretary during the First Schleswig War and Prime Minister during the Second, famously said:
“Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business – the Prince Consort [i.e. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert], who is dead – a German professor, who has gone mad – and I, who have forgotten all about it.”

More than 150 years later, the question has returned to contribute to the most divided German parliament since the Weimar Republic. But this time the Danes in Schleswig-Holstein are amongst the least troublesome of Germany’s ethnic minorities!

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