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L: Martin Henriksen. R: Election placards in Helsingør. Composite: Jens Dresling/Polfoto/Ritzau

DF: Foreigners should not be allowed to run in Danish local elections

Denmark’s nationalist Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti, DF) wants to change rules to prevent foreign citizens from running in municipal and regional elections.

Via: Michael Barrett 

Parliament will on Thursday open discussion of a proposal by the party to introduce rules requiring non-Danish citizens to pass an extended Danish language test before being approved to run in the elections, TV2 reported on Wednesday.

Opposition MPs and an international candidate in the 2017 regional elections have voiced their opposition to DF’s stance.

Martin Henriksen, immigration spokesperson with DF, told TV2 that his party would prefer Danish citizens only to run in the elections.

With no support for that position to be found amongst parliament’s other parties, DF is instead proposing stricter language requirements for prospective foreign candidates, he said.

“We will therefore try a slightly milder model, whereby we can at least agree that you should be able to speak and understand Danish to take part in Danish democracy. So we are proposing a Danish test should be passed as a minimum,” Henriksen told TV2.

Denmark’s regional and municipal elections take place on November 21st. All EU, Norwegian and Icelandic citizens over the age of 18 with a permanent address in Denmark are entitled to vote in both the municipal and regional elections.

Additionally, all foreign citizens over 18 with a permanent address in Denmark for three years or more prior to the date of the election also qualify to take part in the poll.

A total of 355,881 foreign nationals are eligible to vote in the 2017 municipal and regional elections – an increase of 33 percent on 2013, according to figures recently published by Copenhagen thinktank Tænketank Europa.

Of those, 179,989 are EU citizens – four percent of all eligible voters in Denmark.

Romanian Narcis George Matache, who is running for the Social Democrats in North Jutland’s regional elections, told The Local that language skills should not be a barrier to participating in local democracy.

“Local and regional elections are about choosing people to make decisions on how to run local society: the quality of the water in your tap, the quality of the air you breath, how fast you can get to work with your car, how good is your access to the doctor. All of these are things you experience from the very first day you arrive in the local society,” Matache said.

Local politics should reflect the people it represents – including foreign citizens, the regional candidate continued.

“Considering how important democracy is for Danish culture, you cannot have local citizens that have no representation. The more international, European, transnationals are involved in the process of local politics, the more connected they will feel to the local society, and the more responsible for it [they will feel],” he said.

The Romanian, who describes his own Danish proficiency as “medium”, said that foreign nationals should be encouraged to represent their communities in decision-making processes and that language need not prevent this.

“Not being able to speak Danish and running for elections is quite possible if someone is very driven and can navigate the system well enough to get nominated by a Danish party,” the Social Democrat candidate said.

“For my part, I know the Danish system of politics and its history. I know how each party came to exist and how the political system looked back in 1859. That is not exactly common knowledge among all my fellow Danish candidates. So, claiming you don’t know enough about Denmark to run is something that has nothing to do with involvement in local politics. You get involved in local politics because of your present reality, and the hardships you run into everyday that make you want to change that,” he continued.

MP Sofie Carsten Nielsen, spokesperson for immigration with the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, defended the rights of international citizens to take part in local politics.

“We have long since agreed with our EU neighbours that all EU citizens have the right to vote in local elections and European Parliament elections once they have residence [in the relevant country],” Carsten Nielsen told TV2.

The same rights also apply to Danes based abroad, she added.

“Danes that live in other European countries vote there when they have lived there for a number of years. As do people with foreign backgrounds that live and work in Denmark. That is how people get involved in local democracy,” she said.

Matache said that many Europeans remained unaware of their right to vote and run for election, despite an agreement between EU countries providing for this having existed since 1995.

“It is sad to see that only in 2017 has this become something the media talks about, and now something which someone [DF, ed.] is trying to protest against,” he said.

Pushback against the participation of internationals in local elections makes voting all the more important, he added.

“Now that we have this right… we should very well use it. Certain realities that only we as non-Danish citizens experience in local society can be only fixed by ourselves, by us doing something about it politically. Luckily, we’ve got the tools.

“We can help those parties that wish us well. If you are tired of the government always making new laws meant to make your situation harder and creating instability for your life here, then use the rights the state has provided to defend yourself,” Matache said.

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