Mette Frederiksen, the leader of Denmark's opposition Social Democratic Party, has been criticized for using ethnicity in a Facebook debate with a commenter, who slammed Frederiksen for her tough stance on immigration amid an ongoing labor dispute.
The commenter, a woman of Somali descent, wrote that the Social Democrats "have lost her vote" because of Frederiksen.
"I would never put my x [on a ballot] next to [the name of] a party whose current policies would have made it impossible for me to apply for asylum today," the woman wrote. The woman also referred to Frederiksen's potential support for a possible lockout of public sector workers by state and municipal employers over a labor dispute by venturing that this "would change the tolerant and inclusive values in our wonderful municipality."
To this, Frederiksen replied that "those are tough words coming from a woman Denmark has welcomed."
"Of course there is a limit to how many people can come to Denmark for everyone to be able to work, learn the language and be part of Denmark," Frederiksen elaborated.
Frederiksen's reply triggered a wave of criticism from Danish parties.
Citizenship spokesman Jan Jørgensen of the ruling Liberal Party tweeted that Frederiksen's response was "condescending" and called for an apology from the Social Democrats. He also stressed that anyone has the right to take part in the political debate regardless of their origins.
Left-wing Red Green Alliance political spokesperson Pernille Skipper went so far as to accuse Frederiksen of suggesting that non-ethnic Danes should be excluded from the political debate.
"I can see that the Social Democrats think that you can't have an opinion on the lockout if you're a politician or of a minority ethnic background. Unless you have the same opinion as them, that is," Skipper tweeted.
Aalborg social worker Hanna Mohamed Hassan, the Danish-Somali woman whose comment sparked the debate, argued that Frederiksen's message "sent a scary view of humanity," especially coming from a Social Democrat leader running for prime minister.
"I simply don't understand how a potential prime minister can use ethnicity in a debate about societal problems. After all, I'm just a concerned citizen," Hassan told the daily newspaper BT.
Frederiksen herself later added another comment to the Facebook thread, in which she claimed being misunderstood. She also apologized for the way she had expressed herself, stressing that all were welcome in the political debate on equal rights.
Having governed Denmark for the most part of the 20th century with only a few intermissions, the Social Democrats went on to win the popular vote in the 00s, yet were pushed into opposition by right-of-the-center parties, which formed a coalition. In the 2015 general election, the Social Democrats once again reinforced their reputation as Denmark's largest party, but were pushed into opposition.
Earlier this year, the Social Democrats stirred controversy by proposing to send asylum seekers to a Danish-run facility in a yet undetermined North African country before accepting them in Denmark.