Denmark’s nationalists dealt a blow to the hopes of similar parties in France and the Netherlands to form an alliance in the European Parliament on Wednesday when one of its lawmakers ruled out any cooperation with Marine Le Pen’s Front national.
Søren Espersen, the Danish People’s Party deputy leader and foreign policy spokesman, told Politiken newspaper that Le Pen’s was not a “decent” party, referring to its history of antisemitism. Marine’s father, Jean-Marie, who founded and long led the Front, made several antisemitic remarks throughout his political career.
During a joint press conference on Wednesday, when Le Pen visited the Netherlands, Wilders insisted that she had broken with her father’s past. There is “not an inch of racism or antisemitism” in today’s Front national, he said.
While Le Pen has not distanced herself too much from her father, she has reinvented the party as a populist movement that not only opposes immigration but creeping European integration and globalization as well.
Wilders shares those views but his party is socially liberal. Notably, Wilders staunchly defends gay rights, which he believes are under threat from Islam, while Le Pen opposes marriage equalization.
The disparity in views among Euroskeptic movements could foil Le Pen’s and Wilders’ attempts to forge a broader alliance. The United Kingdom Independence Party refuses to cooperate with either, rejecting the Front national‘s anti-globalist views and Wilders’ anti-Islam rhetoric.
Austria’s Freedom Party and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, which advocates Flemish secession, are also critical of immigration and Islam but their social views might be too reactionary by Wilders’ standards. For good measure, Espersen — whose party has just one seat in the European Parliament compared to Le Pen’s three and Wilders’ four — also rejected ties with those parties.
The Sweden Democrats, who are not represented in Brussels yet, could join their Dutch and French counterparts but, Espersen warned, that would come at the expense of their relations with the Danish People’s Party.
Le Pen and Wilders have to find at least five other parties from as many member states to form a bloc in the European Parliament after next year’s elections. Besides the Swedes, Italy’s Lega Nord could be a contender. It now caucuses with the Danish People’s Party and the Finns Party, formerly known as the True Finns, in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group which has under 5 percent of the seats. It also includes social conservatives and ultranationalists from Greece, Poland and Slovakia with whom Le Pen and Wilders are unlikely to collaborate. Any affiliation with such extremists could harm their support at home.
The Front national is on course to become the largest French party in the European Parliament while Wilders’ Freedom Party outpolls both of the Netherlands’ ruling parties.