By Richard Milne
Maximum influence, minimum responsibility. As a recipe for populist parties looking to exercise power, it sounds a good slogan. And as the experience of the Danish People’s Party this century shows, it is eminently achievable.
Some are now looking at how the DPP have been able to exert influence over Denmark’s politics without ever taking a formal role in government as a way that the likes of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands could seek to act after next month’s elections.
Unlike the Progress party in Norway and True Finns – both of whom entered government recently only to see their poll numbers take an almost immediate nose dive – the DPP have kept out of any centre-right administration, even when in 2015 they were the biggest party on that side of the political spectrum.
Instead, the Danish populists have propped up centre-right coalitions from parliament twice, from 2001-2011 and 2015 onwards, while having big influence on the policies that matter to them: such as immigration and justice matters.
The result is that the entire Danish debate on immigration has moved the DPP’s way. A campaign poster in the 2015 elections said “if you come to Denmark, you have to work”. But it wasn’t the DPP’s work. Instead it was the centre-left Social Democrats’. Spot checks at Denmark’s border with Germany and a law allowing police to confiscate immigrants’ jewellery are two more recent policies inspired by the DPP.
The arrangement has worked well for the DPP up until now, allowing it to enter the mainstream and in the words of one DPP MP “avoid responsibility when things go wrong for the government”.
But it may be reaching a limit. The DPP scored 21.1 per cent in 2015 elections, beating the Liberals who formed a minority government. Many grumbled that the DPP should not be able to sit on the sidelines forever being the tail that wags the dog. Avoiding responsibility may seem like a good slogan but it is not a long-term political tactic.
Dutch election corner
Pop-up politics 28 parties will appear on a Dutch ballot the size of a small tablecloth as a mixture of renegade MPs, journalists and opportunists attempt to win over voters fed up with mainstream groups.
As in much of Europe, Dutch politics is fragmenting, with support for mainstream parties disintegrating. But its extreme proportional representation means that the effects are even stronger in the Netherlands.
Moderate fight backs “Traditionally moderate country plumps for moderate parties” is not a headline that many would read. But this seems an increasingly likely outcome in the Dutch election. Liberal D66 are on track for their best performance in two decades. Voters are also clustering around the Dutch Green party, although Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD are in the lead. There is a caveat: other polls put Mr Wilders on up to 30 seats (out of 150).
Elsewhere in Europe: Tusk seeks support
Tusk re-election hopes Donald Tusk’s attempt to be re-elected as European Council president has broad support from most EU member states, except his own. The bitter relationship between Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, and Mr Tusk has degenerated to the point where Mr Kaczynski half-jokingly threatened the former Polish prime minister with a “European arrest warrant”.
Bad judgement France has appealed to the European Court of Justice to annul the EU’s 2017 budget, because MEPs signed it off in Brussels, Belgium, and not 440km away in Strasbourg, France.
A diplomatic death Buzzfeed ponders how a Russian diplomat had his head smashed in on the day of the US election day.
How Nato ends Foreign Policy imagines the end of Nato – with a whimper, rather than a bang.
Turkey spook swoop “German prosecutors have searched the homes of four Turkish Muslim preachers in a widening probe into claims that Ankara’s crackdown on its political opponents extends to spying on people of Turkish origin living abroad.” Full story here.
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