Fogh More Years


Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, author of the libertarian tract From Welfare State to Minimal State, was reelected to a third straight term as Denmark's prime minister, which will be the longest consecutive run of a center-right government in modern Danish history. It appears that Naser Khader, the Syrian-born leader of the New Alliance party, who bravely defended the rights of Jyllands-Posten to offend radical Muslims, will likely support the ruling coalition, which includes Rasmussen's Liberal Party (Venstre), the Conservatives and the anti-immigration Danish People's Party. It's a somewhat disappointing showing for Khader's new party—the New Alliance managed five seats in parliament, significantly lower than previous poll predictions—who campaigned a pro-immigration, tax-cutting platform (Khader proposed lowering the top income tax from 63 percent to 40 percent). In the first election since the "cartoon crisis," Pia Kjærsgaard's anti-immigration, pro-welfare state Danish People's Party increased their representation in Parliament by a single seat, garnering 13.8 percent of the vote, the party's highest total since its 1998 electoral debut.

The Economist leads today with a story on Denmark, playing up the immigration and Danish People's Party angle (headline: "Fear of Foreigners"), but conceded that "in the end…Danes are more concerned about welfare than immigrants, although the two issues are often mixed in voters' minds." But Europe as a whole, The Economist argues, is experiencing a wave of xenophobia unprecedented in the post-war period:

Where xenophobic parties are not flourishing it is sometimes because centre-right parties-and even some others-have taken up their themes. Nicolas Sarkozy, who won the presidency of France earlier in the year, imitated the policies of the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen over law-and-order and immigration. He also promised to oppose Turkish membership of the EU. A block on further EU enlargement may be one consequence Europe's worries about foreigners.

Back in Denmark, Mr Rasmussen's razor-thin majority may be more or less dependent on the DPP. Denmark has a consensus-based tradition, so he may have the option of fishing for votes among a left-wing party instead, and from Mr Khader's small party. In any case Mr Rasmussen may be thinking of moving on soon, perhaps to a European post. Given the prevailing anxiety about foreigners in the midst, he would find familiar themes of xenophobia to occupy his time, whether in Brussels or in Copenhagen.

For those who speak a Scandinavian language, I made a similar case when interviewed by the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen last week, which can be read here.