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New populist party storms into Danish politics

Denmark Democrats leader Inger Stojberg. Credit: Getty

July 13, 2022 - 1:15pm

In a shock polling result, a new Right-wing populist party — the Denmark Democrats — has emerged from nowhere to hit 11% of the vote. 

This is shown in the following chart — which uses the local convention of referring to each party by a single letter of the Danish alphabet. In the case of the new party, the relevant letter is ‘Æ’. 

11% is enough to put the Denmark Democrats in fourth place behind only the ruling Social Democrats (A), the Conservatives (C) and the Liberals (V). What makes this sudden emergence all the more extraordinary is the party’s backstory. 

Credit: Europe Elects

It was founded only last month by Inger Støjberg, a former member of parliament for the centre-Right Liberals. However, in 2021, she was impeached as a result of actions she took when she was an immigration minister in the previous Danish government. The specific issue centred on the separation of couples in refugee centres where one or both partners are minors. Found guilty, Støjberg was sentenced to sixty days in prison and expelled from parliament. Most, though not all, of her former party colleagues voted against her. 

It’s also interesting to note that her new party’s name echoes that of the Sweden Democrats — the populist Right-wing party on the other side of the Øresund Bridge.

Of course, it is too early to tell whether the Denmark Democrats will become as well-established as their Swedish counterparts; but it would seem that the obituaries for Danish populism were premature.

The Danish People’s Party (O), founded in 1995, was one of the first populist parties to disrupt modern European politics. Its zenith was the 2015 general when it won 21% of the vote — making it the second biggest party in the Danish parliament and the biggest party in the governing coalition. But, then, in the 2019 general election, it crashed to 8.7% — and has got weaker ever since. 

The party’s decline has been attributed to the decision of the centre-Left Social Democrats to get tough on immigration. By doing so, they won back some of their traditional support and seemingly marginalised the populists. For some on the Left, like Paul Embery, it was an example of how the mainstream Left can win elections again. Though for others it was a worrying betrayal of progressive values. 

Meanwhile, for complacent liberals, it was evidence that the populist surge is just a flash in the pan. But as should be clear by now, the populist threat isn’t going away. Though far from invulnerable, populist parties and politicians have a habit of coming back from defeat. We’ve just seen that in France, where Marine Le Pen underperformed expectations in the presidential election, only to lead her party to unexpected success in the legislative elections. 

It is a reminder that unresolved social tensions are still gnawing away at western democracy. Looking ahead, we cannot assume that things will get better — or that they can’t get worse. 

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.


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Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago

‘ … the populist threat isn’t going away.’

Because of that pesky democracy thing, I suppose. You know, people voting for a party they hope might represent their interests.

A really horrid threat, as all right-thinking people must surely agree.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

Many people in the West are waking up to the fact that we are in an existential crisis largely brought on by progressive ideology and its hopelessly out-of-touch politicians. We are rapidly entering a period of realpolitik where there is popular pushback against the so-called Liberal World Order.
Left-wing progressivism has become passé and self-defeating. It has turned off so many people with its moralistic evangelism. However, like any big institution the left-wing Cathedral is not going to go down easily. There is a very real reason why the Democrats are trying to convert the US military and police into a force for wokeism. They need armed minions to defend their crumbling edifices. Thankfully, many in the police and military remain staunchly resilient against progressivism.
Initially, I was disappointed by Biden winning(?) the election, but now I see it as a good thing. The Democrats have done nothing besides damage their own brand since gaining power. Biden’s approval rating has dropped to 30%. Americans are witnessing first-hand what an ideologically-driven government looks like. The politicians and corporate CEOs who have supported this illiberal liberalism have exposed themselves for the foolish hypocrites they are.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julian Farrows
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Agreed. To say that Biden and the Democrats in America have overreached is a massive understatement. The wool is off the eyes now. My parents are in their late 70’s and are typical non-political, don’t bug me too much, Democrat voters. Even my mother is starting to make populist noises ocassionally.

When the Democrats have lost my mother; they’re in trouble.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Looks like the old Danish People’s Party collapsed into irrelevance, and a new more vigorous party is taking over the mantle and the electorate. It is significant that the Danish populists have not been marginalised after all, now they have achieved a lot of their original aims. But it is too much to call it shocking.