Khader the Kingmaker

Denmark goes to the polls today to elect a new parliament. If the psephologists have done their sums right, it looks like the centrist block of Venstre and Konservative will come out on top, though with a reduced majority.

Such a result will ensure that PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen remains in power. I am quite indifferent to the man, but on balance feel that it would be the best outcome in the circumstances. From an international perspective it would be a disaster if the social democrats took over. That would probably result in a speedy Danish withdrawal from Iraq (but not from Afghanistan), and a general turning inwards. As far as Denmark itself is concerned, the social democrats are in a complete mess, and the party hasn’t had an original idea in years.

The current government rules as a formal two-party alliance, but in order to get its legislative programme through the Folketing it relies on the votes of MPs from the right-wing nationalist Dansk Folkeparti. This is a racist organisation, but it is quite unlike the BNP in Britain. DF is mainstream, and commands support among Danes of widely differing backgrounds.

Danish politics have ever been weird, but the current situation is particularly awkward. Since the last election the plates have shifted, and the difference is in the collapse of the Radikale Venstre party. RV is a liberal party with agrarian roots. It is petite bourgeois, pro-individual, pro-market and socially left. In the past few years it has moved significantly leftwards, and generally supports the social democrats in parliament. I voted for RV when I lived in Denmark, though I wore a nose peg to cover up the odour of middle class sanctimony.

RV was until recently the political home of MP Naser Khader, who is known outside Denmark for his intervention in the Mohammed cartoons affair, and setting up the organisation Demokratiske Muslimer. For his troubles Khader now goes everywhere accompanied by police intelligence service bodyguards, and is regularly denounced in mosque sermons as an apostate rat worthy of slaughter.

Divisions within RV recently came to a head and led to a split in the party, with Khader leaving to form the Ny Alliance. I’m not sure of the numbers, but it looks like Khader has taken a considerable part of RV with him, and will back Anders Fogh in negotiations to form a new government. But not only has Khader effectively wrecked RV, this Syrian-born immigrant may end up taking votes from DF, and do so without pandering to racist sentiment. Now that would be an interesting result.

Naser Khader is the man to watch in this election. He is the centre of attention, and domestic media coverage has focused on his words and actions to the point of obsession. That may not be particularly healthy, but current events show that not all is rotten in the state of Denmark.