A late note on Pia Kjærsgaard’s entry to the Swedish electoral campaign this Saturday. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a transcription of her speech at sd’s rally in Höganäs, so I will stick to making some general observations.

First, I don’t know of any studies into the use of foreign party leaders in national election campaigns. I suspect that the reason is that these appearances are generally seen as electorally irrelevant. Most voters only know national party leaders but will have a hard time recognising foreign party leaders. Just to test yourself: If you are Danish, name the leader of the Swedish Liberal Party. If you are Swedish, name the leader of the Danish Socialist Party. Googling is not allowed.

This leads to my second observation: Why invite foreign party leaders, if they have no visible impact on voters? After all, the Social Democrats have invited Norwegian Labour leader and prime minister Jens Stoltenberg and the Centre Party Finnish Centre Party leader and prime minister Mari Kiviniemi. (For some reason, nobody appears to have thought of inviting Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen.)

My guess is that these guest appearances are mostly directed at the party activists. Seeing yourself as part of an international (successful) movement might spur activists during a campaign and that may again be a help in mobilising voters.

Kjærsgaard’s visit in Höganäs might bring a little more than that. sd is struggling to achieve electability and DF is not only electable, it has also been the partner of choice for the Danish Liberals (and to a lesser degree the Conservatives) since 2001. Appearing alongside Pia Kjærsgaard would give sd party leader Jimmie Åkesson a massive boost among party supporters, especially those who want sd to be a mainstream party, and help mobilise campaign workers in the last week of the campaign.

(I’m pretty much in line with Marie Demker as quoted in an interview with SvD here)

On the other hand, the visit might not be without risks for Kjærsgaard. After all, sd historically has its basis in the nationalist fringe and the border between sd and extremist currents has not always been clear. Even if she often uses a very potent rhetoric, Kjærsgaard is in fact a cautious party leader and she and the rest of the DF leadership have always been careful in distancing themselves from outright xenophobic or racist organisations or individuals. DF has no doubt vetted Åkesson and the sd leadership thoroughly before deciding to attend the sd arrangement.

The final question is if Pia Kjærsgaard’s appearing at an sd arrangement has any benefits for DF. There is of course an anti-Swedish sentiment among a large section of the nationalist opinion in Denmark (check out Ralf Pittelkow or any of Jyllands-Posten’s bloggers) and they would love to see sd enter the Swedish parliament as it would reassure them that the Swedes (or rather 5-6% of them) are just like us (or rather 13-15% of us).

Again, this is more of an elite (hah!) phenomenon, but I doubt if it has any direct effects on present of prospective DF voters.

  1. Kjærsgaard seems to me to be a clever political leader with a special skill for divide and conquer-tactics. But I wonder how clever it is to stand shoulder to shoulder with Sverigedemokraterna. SD is after all a party with it’s roots in post-WW2 fascism. SD have more in common with the neo-fascists in Italy than with Kjærsgaards own wright-wing populistic party. What does it mean that SD has been vetted? It is hard for a party to just cut off their roots, as is rather evident with the Swedish Left party, which many voters feels are old communists whatever the party representatives tries to say.

  2. I would expect that DF has made quite a lot of effort to make sure that there wouldn’t be any nazi- or fascist-like propaganda appearing in the campaign. DF has also held out until 1) Åkesson’s line looked to have won in the party organisation and 2) sd looked set to enter the Riksdag.

  3. There is of course an even larger right-wing populist party in Norway than in Denmark. I guess the Sweden Democrats would have loved to have Siv Jensen visit them, but I don’t think the Progress Party would want to be associated with them, given that they like to keep Pia Kjærsgaard at arm’s length too.

  4. The relationships between populist (etc.) parties are often very fascinating. I recall, that FPÖ once rejected a visit from a DF delegation with the argument that DF was to extremist. Most Danes, even including people who hate DF, were … a bit surprised by that argument.

  5. A surprising Danish intervention indeed. Your reflections about motives are probably reasonably accurate.