How absent-minded can you (i.e: I) be? Last night brought a first in Swedish politics as commercial channel TV4 managed to get the Social Democratic leader Mona Sahlin to debate with Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the extreme-right Sweden Democrats.
The last weeks have seen an interesting development because a number of the established parties have abandoned their traditional strategies of ignoring representatives of the extreme right. The 64.000$ question is of cause if this will make the extreme right more legitimate in the eyes of some parts of the Swedish electorate.
Meanwhile in Denmark the big story has been attacks by members of the Danish People’s Party against Asmaa Abdol-Hamid who is a parliamentary candidate for the left-wing Unity List. Abdol-Hamid first rose to national fame as co-host in a series of TV-debates (where she not only wore a veil but also refused to shake hands with male guests) and her candidacy raises some fascinating questions about integration and multiculturalism and the way a traditionally Socialist and Multiculturalist party profiles itself – to put the dilemma in the briefest possible way: Is Abdol-Hamid an Islamist, a Feminist, a Muslim Feminist or a Conservative Muslim?
However, Søren Krarup of the DPP went out with all guns blazing and declared that a Muslim woman wearing a veil should not be allowed access to the speaker’s podium of the Folketing and even went so far as to compare the veil with the Nazi Swastika. Krarup was supported by the DPP’s leader Pia Kjærsgaard while members of the Folketing’s presidium declared that a statement comparing religious symbols and dresses with Nazi symbols would not be tolerated in the Folketing.
On the other hand, a commentator noted that Krarup and the DPP leadership knew very well what they were doing: Attacking Muslims definitively strikes a cord with the party’s voters and it also puts the Liberals and especially the Conservatives in an ambiguous position as they cannot afford to distance themselves to much from the DPP.