Danish People’s Party (DF). The DF is Denmark’s most notorious party. The DF’s genesis was in the Progress Party, founded in 1972 by Mogens Glistrup, a Danish lawyer who achieved huge popularity after appearing on television and demonstrating that he paid 0% tax.
Glistrup’s party was initially a radically anti-tax and extreme economically liberal party which called for the abolition of income tax. Glistrup was known for his unique political persona. On one occasion, for instance, Glistrup suggested that to save money the entire Ministry of Defence could be replaced with an answering phone that simply stated ‘We Surrender’ in Russian.
Glistrup’s party became extremely popular with the working class as a protest vote. In its first election in 1973, famous because five new or minor parties entered parliament that year, Progress came second. Progress fell back in later years, but its stances evolved to match its base. Progress became a believer in ‘welfare chauvinism’. That is to say it supported the principle of a welfare state but only for the ‘deserving’. ‘Scroungers’ and immigrants, in particular, were deemed to be undeserving. The party became increasingly anti-Muslim.
In later years Glistrup would serve jail time for tax evasion, and from 1985 the party would be led by Pia Kjaersgaard. When Glistrup returned he and Kjaersgaard began a fight for the soul of the party, with Kjaersgaard representing the party’s ‘pragmatic’ wing. She split the party and formed the Danish People’s Party.
DF is a very different beast to Progress. The party’s key issue is immigration and integration. The party wants to put a stop to all immigration from non-Western countries. Between 2001 and 2011 DF support a centre-right minority government of Venstre and the Conservatives in exchange for tougher immigration controls. The party is also more ‘social’ than Progress, continuing to advocate welfare chauvinism but much less anti-tax, and even broadly supportive of welfare. The party also supports taking better care of the elderly. DF is a Eurosceptic party, which makes it unusual in Denmark, where Euroscepticism has historically been most identified with the far-left.
DF’s outspoken ideological uniqueness has made it very popular in Denmark, and a study by the Danish Trade Union Confederation, SiD, concluded that 30% of unskilled workers now voted DF compared to 25% who voted for the Social Democrats. As such it is an existential threat to the Social Democrat base. Unlike most right-wing populist parties on supporting a government DF did not fall apart or lose popularity and is a key component of the Blue Bloc. Austerity hurt its popularity somewhat by taking the shine off its ‘social’ profile as it voted for centre-right austerity budgets.
Kjaersgaard stood down in 2012. The party has recently been experiencing a strengthening of support, with some polls showing it in second place, ahead of the Social Democrats. This is all the more surprising as polls typically tend to underestimate DF.
DF is a member of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament. It votes with the group 63.8% of the time, which even in the incoherent EFD is a low loyalty rate. One of DF’s MEPs left the party in 2010 and joined the European Conservatives and Reformists. She votes with the ECR 79.2% of the time, one of the lowest loyalty rates for that group.