Jihadism, migration in focus as Denmark votes on European Union opt-out

A majority of left- and right-wing parties in the Danish parliament approved the principle of a referendum in December 2014.

AFP| Updated: Dec 01, 2015, 10:35 AM IST
Jihadism, migration in focus as Denmark votes on European Union opt-out

Copenhagen: Eurosceptic Denmark goes to the polls Thursday in a referendum on stepping up its participation in EU police and judicial cooperation, with the outcome uncertain amid fears ranging from jihadist attacks to the migrant crisis.

Held three weeks after the Paris attacks that left 130 people dead, the referendum was originally scheduled to take place in 2016 but was moved up so it wouldn`t interfere with the campaign for Britain`s EU referendum, due to be held before 2017.

A majority of left- and right-wing parties in the Danish parliament approved the principle of a referendum in December 2014, despite the opposition of the eurosceptic, anti-immigration Danish People`s Party (DPP).

The party, which emerged as the country`s second-biggest in June legislative elections, has held significant sway over Danish politics for more than a dozen years, providing right-wing minority governments with support to pass legislation in parliament in exchange for its tighter immigration policies.

"More EU? No thanks," read the DPP`s campaign posters.

The party claims Denmark risks losing control over its immigration policy, a strong argument for voters worried that Denmark could be forced to accept obligatory EU refugee quotas in the future.

The number of asylum seekers in Denmark has only been about a tenth of those received by neighbouring Sweden so far this year.The "yes" camp, led by Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of the right-wing Venstre party as well as the opposition Social Democrats, has meanwhile been accused of scaremongering, with a campaign slogan that reads: "Help the police: vote yes!"

On its website, the Socialist People`s Party has published a photo of French President Francois Hollande at the Bataclan theatre in Paris on November 13, after 90 people were killed there.

"The refugee crisis, cross-border terrorism, human trafficking and social dumping are challenges we cannot overcome on our own," it said.

The "yes" and "no" camps are currently running neck-and-neck, with one recent poll showing that one in five Danes were more likely to vote "yes" after the Paris attacks.

But the large number of undecided voters -- estimated at between 20 and 30 percent -- has made the outcome impossible to predict.