By Svren Billing ,AFP
KOLDING, Denmark — Denmark’s anti-immigration DPP party is expected to post a record score in Thursday’s general election, which has been marked by debate over the place of foreigners in Danish society. Public opinion polls suggest almost one in five Danes, or some 18 percent, will vote for the far-right Danish People’s Party (DPP), up from 12.3 percent in the previous 2011 election, with immigration cited as one of the top three campaign issues behind the economy and the country’s cradle-to-grave welfare state. The DPP ��helps those that need it the most, I think. Hospitals and the elderly and nurseries. That’s pretty good policy,�� said Rita Petersen, a retired childminder attending a recent DPP rally in the central town of Kolding. The DPP was an influential player in Danish politics from 2001-2011, when it succeeded in imposing some of Europe’s strictest immigration policies in exchange for helping successive right-wing governments pass legislation. Under Social Democratic Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in power since 2011, spending on asylum seekers has risen but the restrictions have remained largely in place. Petersen is typical of the DPP’s voter base: elderly, working class Danes �X 43 percent are over the age of 60 �X who want to reduce the amount of money spent on asylum seekers and unemployed, unintegrated immigrants, in order to spend more on health care, pensioners and childcare. ��We should have more focus on helping refugees in need, and we do that by helping in the areas surrounding (conflicts) where we can help a lot of people. And that’s why we should tighten rules in Denmark,�� DPP leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl told AFP at the Kolding rally, as golden oldies blared from speakers next to a traditional Danish hot dog cart. While Danish business is arguing the country needs immigrants to support its ageing population, the DPP wants higher pensions for low-income earners and more state-funded domestic help for pensioners.
Few Immigrants Vote The DPP’s success in the polls has been attributed to the fact that Thulesen Dahl is a less divisive figure than his outspoken predecessor Pia Kjaersgaard, toning down some of the party’s most controversial rhetoric on immigration in favor of economic issues. February’s twin attacks in Copenhagen �X when gunman Omar El-Hussein killed a Danish filmmaker outside a cultural center before opening fire at a synagogue, killing a Jewish man �X have had no direct impact on the DPP’s opinion ratings, but helped keep immigration on the agenda. Among Denmark’s immigrants, voter turnout and involvement in politics is lower than for ethnic Danes.