Mattias Tesfaye says immigration is a risk to Denmark’s social cohesion and beneficiant welfare state. However the 38-year-old former bricklayer shouldn’t be a member of a populist rightwing social gathering. He’s immigration spokesman for the nation’s centre-left Social Democrats, and the son of an immigrant himself.
Mr Tesfaye has been one of many public faces of the social gathering within the run-up to Denmark’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday, which polls recommend may ship a uncommon victory for Europe’s centre-left and are being intently watched throughout the continent.
After a long time of taking a liberal place on immigration, the Social Democrats have up to now few years toughened up each their rhetoric and insurance policies, a swap that seems to be resonating with voters. Whereas within the final election in 2015 they eked out a victory over the anti-immigration Danish Folks’s social gathering, the Social Democrats are this time predicted to win greater than double the votes of the populists.
“If solely the far-right is speaking concerning the issues, then it is just the far-right the place folks will probably be on the lookout for options,” mentioned Mr Tesfaye, who has an Ethiopian father and Danish mom, in an interview with the Monetary Occasions. “If I have been a liberal rightwinger or in an Anglo-Saxon [country] then open borders wouldn’t be an issue. However for a Scandinavian welfare state, immigration needs to be managed.”
The election marketing campaign has been dominated by the dual problems with sustaining Denmark’s beneficiant welfare system and immigration, following the introduction of a collection of harsh measures focused at migrants lately.
A regulation handed by the present parliament permits police to confiscate cash and jewelry from asylum seekers, stirring up discuss of parallels with Nazi Germany. The Social Democrats backed it, however Mr Tesfaye mentioned the ruling centre-right events performed up its controversial components. Equally, they supported a proposal to double the punishment of sure crimes in areas designated as ghettos.
For some, powerful anti-immigration insurance policies within the conventional social gathering of the left means merely that it has been co-opted by populists. Michala Clante Bendixen, chair of Refugees Welcome, which affords free authorized recommendation to asylum seekers, mentioned she may not see the distinction between the Social Democrats and DPP on immigration.
“That is what makes my work hopeless. It doesn’t matter what authorities we get, there won’t be a change in coverage. And they’re excessive insurance policies,” she added.
However Mr Tesfaye denied the Social Democrats have been merely copying the populists, arguing as a substitute that they have been reclaiming centre-left concepts from the 1960s and 1970s when the primary waves of immigrants got here to Denmark.
“The areas the place the migrants are transferring to are classically Social Democrat areas. So sometimes it will likely be Social Democrat voters who could have youngsters in faculties that may have issues, sometimes expert and unskilled employees who could have new colleagues. That is difficult the social cohesion within the welfare state,” he mentioned.
The change of route started after Mette Frederiksen changed former prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt as chief and began taking the social gathering in a extra social-conservative route. She brought on shockwaves when she gave a joint interview with the DPP chief in 2017.
She instructed the Monetary Occasions just a few months later that Europe’s centre-left had change into indifferent from its voters. “A very powerful factor about being a Social Democrat social gathering is definitely being related. Can you discover the solutions to the issues that individuals are dealing with?”
That method has helped to squeeze the populist vote. Current opinion polls give the DPP about 11-12 per cent assist, virtually half its degree from 2015 when it was the most important social gathering on the centre-right however didn’t enter authorities. Kenneth Kristensen Berth, one of many social gathering’s MPs, mentioned the Social Democrats had “zigzagged” on immigration and have been more likely to disappoint voters as soon as in energy.
“I don’t suppose we’re threatened. Folks know the DNA of this social gathering. In some methods, I’m trying ahead to the Social Democrats being in authorities. It’s going to be so rattling costly,” he added.
The Social Democrats have hinted that they might govern in a single-party minority authorities, in search of assist from the likes of the DPP on immigration whereas others on the leftwing for financial points. Though polls give the centre-left a stable lead over the centre-right, Ms Frederiksen acquired a warning final weekend when the governing Liberal social gathering of prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen pipped the Social Democrats to victory in European elections.
Each critics and supporters agree that Denmark is at a vital juncture. Ms Bendixen mentioned the anti-immigration insurance policies have been aimed toward holding “Denmark a homogenous welfare system, as an island on the earth. However we’re already multicultural. You possibly can’t flip issues backwards”.
Mr Tesfaye acknowledged the challenges of transferring to a extra heterogenous nation the place some residents, as an example, don’t need to eat pork, an emblem of identification for a lot of in Denmark. Requested how simple it was to make sure parallel societies for immigrants don’t spring up, Mr Tesfaye set free a sigh.
“To be trustworthy, I don’t know if we are going to succeed. However I do know if we don’t succeed, the Scandinavian welfare state must be reformed into one thing else. We’ll give it a strive.”