The World

Danes Get Out the Vote With Sex, Violence, and Cinammon Rolls

If all you know about Danish politics is Borgen, you’re in for a rude surprise. 

Voters in the EU’s 28 countries are heading to the polls this weekend to elect 751 members of the European Parliament, a body representing about 550 million people.

Turnout for EU elections is traditionally pretty low, but this election will matter more than previous ones, since the controversial Lisbon Treaty, which went into effect in 2009, gives the parliament much wider powers to approve health, environment, and financial regulations, and veto international agreements between the EU and foreign governments.

So governments are understandably keen to get voters to take the elections seriously. The Danish parliament’s approach was the video above, featuring a musclebound cartoon superhero called Voteman, first seen in bed with five naked women, who then proceeds to motivate young people to vote through beatings and, in one case, decapitation.

It’s certainly the edgiest cartoon I’ve ever seen that includes a reference to agricultural subsidies. If you’re curious about the cinnamon roll thing, that’s actually a real political issue.

The speaker of the Folketinget, as the Danish parliament is known, initially defended the video, saying, “We are trying to inspire the very young to go out and vote. It is important we get a higher turnout, especially among the young. You have to use all sorts of methods.” But they’ve since pulled it and apologized amid widespread complaints about violence and sexism.

According to the Financial Times, the video may have been a somewhat desperate reaction by Denmark’s mainstream parties to the growing popularity of the far-right populist Danish People’s party. The anti-EU anti-immigration party has been polling ahead of the ruling center-left Social Democrats in some polls.

Continentwide polls ahead of the election suggest that a coalition of center-right parties will win a narrow majority but up to a quarter of the seats may be won by far-right and far-left parties, capitalizing on discontent over the EU’s economic woes. Many of these parties, including the People’s Party, France’s National Front, and Britain’s UKIP, are deeply skeptical of the EU itself. Some, including Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik, are blatantly racist.   

If the EU is really at the point where it needs Voteman to protect it from the barbarians at the gate, it may be in even worse shape than I thought.