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Inger Stojberg, from house arrest to Danish populist champion

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” She posted images on social media of her posing with a cake to celebrate the 50th amendment restricting the rights of immigrants “

A CRIMINAL conviction and being ousted from parliament has not been enough to stop former immigration minister Inger Stojberg from returning to the political scene as a champion of the anti-immigration right in Denmark.

Stojberg is known in particular for spearheading a law enabling the confiscation of jewelry and valuables from migrants in order to “pay” for their stay.

Now she is back on the political scene with her new party, the Denmark Democrats, which are polling at around eight percent ahead of the elections on November 1.

Stojberg says she wants to give a voice to the ordinary people, those “forgotten” by the elites in Copenhagen.

“Inger,” as she is known to her supporters, is frequently met by cheering crowds, from village squares to supermarket car parks.

Her platform is one of less centralization, less influence from Europe — and fewer immigrants.

The 49-year-old, her copper hair made up into a neat bun, is “quite charismatic,” Kasper Hansen, a professor at Copenhagen University, told AFP.

“And she’s very good at kind of speaking, like everybody understands her,” Hansen added.

Most often she travels with her black labrador “Ludvig”, listed on the party’s website as a candidate — though in an imaginary canine constituency.

For Lars Bregnbak, a member of her party running for a seat in parliament, her success is due to her frankness. People can identify with her, he said.

“She is an ordinary person. She has both feet on the ground.”

Danish values

She says she is a passionate defender of “Danish values.”

Last December however, Stojberg was found guilty of flouting her ministerial duties when she ordered the separation of asylum-seeking couples when the woman was under 18 — a measure she said was designed to combat forced marriages.

She has argued she has been “punished for trying to protect the girls.”

Her order was judged to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a special court sentenced her to two months in prison, to be served at home with an electronic bracelet.

A member of parliament for 20 years, her fellow deputies voted to expel her from the Folketing (Denmark’s parliament) following her sentence.

But she immediately hinted at a return to politics, suggesting the affair would not be her “last word.”

As a member of the Liberal Party, she has served as minister in three different capacities: for gender equality (2009-2010); then employment (2010-2011); and finally for immigration and integration (2015-2019).

It was in the final position that she drastically tightened the Scandinavian country immigration policy.

She posted images on social media of her posing with a cake to celebrate the 50th amendment restricting the rights of immigrants.

She published newspaper ads in the Middle East to discourage prospective migrants, and called on Danes to report businesses where employees did not speak Danish to the authorities in order to track down illegal immigrants.

‘Morally right’

In June, she founded the Denmark Democrats, whose name echoes that of the Sweden Democrats, in neighboring Sweden, who also champion restrictive immigration policies.

Despite being expelled from parliament, there are no legal obstacles to her return, and in meetings with voters, her sentence is often seen as a badge of honor.

“Ten percent of the voting population thinks that what she did was morally right, even if it is illegal,” political scientist Robert Klemmensen told AFP.

In a country where the far right entered parliament in 1998, her message is not all that controversial as “Danes are mostly on the right, against immigration and multiculturalism,” Klemmensen noted.

For instance, the confiscation of jewelry from migrants made headlines outside Denmark, but was less of an issue on the home front.

With her Denmark Democrats, Stojberg is competing for votes with two far-right parties, the New Right and notably the Danish People’s Party, which has historically been the leading force on

anti-immigration. Between them, the three parties, which are campaigning to unseat the Social Democrat government, have the support of some 15 percent of voters, according to polls.

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