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POLITICS – The youth votes blue, industrial workers get new deal & populists cosy with socialists

 
Some of the top politics stories from the past month

The youth votes Blue

The Danish parliament parliament would be overwhelmingly right wing if it were up to 14 to 17-year-olds. In February, 670 schools and 63,000 students across the country participated in the second-ever school election, which resulted in an overwhelming majority for the right-wing ‘blue bloc’, which secured 55.2 percent of the vote.

The most popular party was the centre-right Liberal Party (Venstre) with 19.1 percent of the vote, which mirrors the 19.5 percent the party achieved in the 2015 general election.

But for a number of the other parties, the voting habits of young people diverged widely from the population at large. The opposition-leading Social Democrats (Socialdemokratiet) fell to second place in the school election with 15.5 percent percent, a dramatic change from their overwhelming win in the 2015 election with 26.3 percent of the vote.

READ MORE: “Liberalism not egoism”

And while the populist Danish People’s Party won 21.1 percent of the vote in 2015, they could only muster 8.4 percent of the youth vote this time around. The Liberal Alliance and Conservative People’s Party (Konservativer) are also much more popular among young people than adults. LA secured 13.5 percent of the vote in February compared to 7.5 percent in 2015, and Konservativer 12.8 percent – almost triple their support in the 2015 general election.

Held for the first time in 2015, the school election was launched to improve political awareness and competencies among young people. University of Copenhagen research following the first school election found that students felt more able to understand and take part in political debates after participating in the programme, which involved school debates and discussions on political issues.

An old political feud softens

Can a left-wing government have the support of an anti-immigration party? It’s a question that was raised last month when the leaders of the Danish People’s Party (DF) and Social Democrats (Socialdemokrater) participated in a joint interview conducted by the labour union 3F.

Between 2001 and 2011, and from 2015 to the present, DF has supported right-wing minority and coalition governments. But in the interview, DF leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl said that this wouldn’t necessarily always be the case.

“I am incredibly happy that we have a dialogue that makes it possible for the Socialdemokrater and DF to cooperate on a completely different level than we are used to,” Dahl said.

The two parties have a lot in common, at least on paper. They are both pro-welfare and oppose social dumping, raising the pension age, and cutting income taxes. While the right-wing parties welcome the taxi platform Uber, DF has followed the left wing’s line that it represents unfair competition.

Instead of supporting the left-wing ‘red bloc’ parties, however, DF’s hard line on immigration means they have always belonged to the right-wing ‘blue bloc’.

Over the past two decades, however, the dividing line on immigration has crept further and further left. After losing power to a minority Liberal Party (Venstre) government in 2015, Socialdemokrater voted with the right-wing parties on a string of immigration and asylum restrictions.

READ MORE: Competition for right wing voters heats up

According to Politiken newspaper’s political editor Anders Bæksgaard, the cross-aisle alliance doesn’t necessarily mean the two will try to form a government together at the next election. DF would have a hard time working with parties further to the left, such as the Red-Green Alliance, whose permissive immigration policies could not be more diametrically opposed to DF’s closed border stance.

But DF and Socialdemokratiet still benefit in the short term from their informal alliance, Bæksgaard argues.

“DF is given a better and freer negotiating position with Prime Minster Lars Løkke Rasmussen. And Mette Frederiksen (leader of Socialdemokratiet, ed.) can leverage the weak cohesion in the blue bloc to demonstrate that she, the leader of the opposition, can have a greater impact on Danish politics than the prime minister.”

Others are less optimistic about the alliance. In a leader, Politiken Editor-in-Chief Christian Jensen writes that while it’s true that DF has moved toward the left on economic policies, it’s even more true that Socialdemokratiet has moved to the right on immigration.

“[But] it’s difficult to see how a governing coalition could be realised without the Socialdemokrater further abandoning the party’s fundamental ideas about internationalism and humanism,” he writes.

Still, the two parties have come a long way since October 1999. During a debate in Parliament, then-Socialdemokrat PM Poul Nyrup Rasmussen condemned DF’s anti-immigration stance and declared, “You will never be housebroken.” (“Stueren, det bliver I aldrig.”)

Industrial workers negotiate new deal
Families, older workers and unskilled labourers are all set to a benefit from a new collective bargaining agreement that was struck between labour union CO-Industri and Danish employers’ association DI.

The agreement covers around 230,000 people and includes an investment of 200 million kroner over two years to educate unskilled labourers. Older employees with less than five years to retirement can apply for an extra 32 days off each year, while parents will now be able to receive full salaries during parental leave.

“The technological development in industrial workplaces demands a significant improvement of skills,” CO-Industri chairman Claus Jensen said. “This deal will create security for the future of our members’ jobs.”

READ MORE: West of Valby – The forgotten Denmark

DI’s administrative director Karsten Dybvad echoed the sentiment.

“I am glad that the deal gives employees a better opportunity to lift themselves from unskilled to skilled workers in selected fields where there is a demand for labourers.”

Thousands turned away at the border
The temporary border control with Germany has resulted in 2,901 people being denied entry since its establishment in January 2016.

According to the Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing, they were turned away for lacking residence permits or visas, or for carrying falsified papers.

READ MORE: Closing Denmark to Muslims and refugees

“This demonstrates the importance of border control,” Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg said. “We are stopping the right people, the ones without ID, and that tells me that we have much better control over who is coming into Denmark.”

The majority of those turned away were from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia. Fourteen Germans were also denied entry. M

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By Peter Stanners

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief. Occasional photographer.

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