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The Len Pen surprise in the recent French presidential election has made European leaders and pundits comment on and condemn the success of the rightist The National Front and its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have expressed their disgust, as has Danish Prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Rasmussen’s reaction was especially interesting, not to say hypocritical, as his government bases itself solely on votes from the Danish equivalent of the Le Pen party.
Last November Rasmussen took office as head of a new government consisting of his own right liberal party, Venstre (which ironically means The Left, which it was 130 years ago), and the junior partner–Konservative. But as is often the case in Denmark they needed a third party to gain a majority in our Parliament– Folketinget. Venstre campaigned to get the traditional center votes from the social democratic party and to appeal to voters expected to back the xenophobic Danish Peoples Party, DPP, headed by Pia Kjaersgaard. This party had successfully made foreigners–immigrants, fugitives and their crimes–a main issue in the campaign leading up to the election.
So Rasmussen’s party despicably placed ads showing young Palestinians leaving a courtroom spitting in contempt and displaying their longest finger on their right hands–just to show what a menace aliens are to a western society and to capture votes otherwise meant for DPP. And it paid off to some extent, but not enough to stop our ultra rights in gaining 12 percent of the Danish vote.
And that was plenty to form a majority with Rasmussen and today the xenophobic party is the parliamentary safety net to Danish government, which has now for four months run the country without even looking to the left side of the Parliament. Social-liberals and socialists are more or less in the gutter, wondering what hit them and licking their wounds..
The conservative policies of the Rasmussen government (and the fact that it relies on parliamentarians from the far right) has raised some eyebrows from sister parties in countries such as Norway and Sweden. Rasmussen has been asked to explain to them what was going on in the state of Denmark.
With the general European outburst of condemnations against the rise of Le Pen, Rasmussen saw a chance to explain to the rest of Europe that his parliamentary partner, The Danish Peoples Party, is not at all the same as Le Pen’s National Front. That’s why he was so very demonstrative in his statements. He thundered "that Le Pen’s proclamations and whole politics were abhorrent." He took special note of some remarks by Le Pen on concentrations camps and Jews.
It is well known that Le Pen some time ago expressed horrible views that gave the impression that he regarded Hitler’s extermination of the Jews and the concentrations camps as events that merely deserved a parenthesis in the history books.
No Danish politicians have said things quite like this, so Rasmussen seems in the clear. But several members of the DPP have come close to explicit anti-Semitism. In several instances the party has proclaimed statements that are more or less same or, in some cases, even more chilling than we hear from the rest of the European far right.
Leading members of the party even resort to language that was common in Germany in the thirties. High ranking DPP parliamentary leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, on the eve of the last election, used the exact same words on Muslims as German right wingers in 1932 used on Jews: The Muslims should be sent out of the country on a one way ticket. On the issues of stopping immigration and sending the foreigners–i.e. Muslims–out of the country today in order to save our wonderful society and the social welfare system, there is absolutely no difference between the Danish, the French and other European rightist parties.
Hence Prime Minister Rasmussen’s focus on Le Pen’s remarks on the Jews. But it’s a hard sell. Rasmussens efforts to make partner look nice, house trained and therefore fit to do parliamentary business with collide almost daily with their neo-fascist nature. Just the other day, right-winger Jörg Haider of Austria invited The Danish Peoples Party to become member of a common rightwing European party running for the European Parliament in 2004.
Rasmussen can’t talk away the smell. Something definitely is rotten here.
Steen Sohn is a freelance writer specializing in German and American politics, including a book on McCarthyism. He lives in Aarhus, Denmark. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org