August 7, 2012 / 9:41 PM / 6 years ago

Leader of Danish anti-immigrant party steps down

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The leader of the opposition Danish People’s Party, Pia Kjaersgaard, is stepping down as head of the anti-immigrant and euro-sceptic populist movement she built, a party spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

Kjaersgaard informed her parliamentary group she would step down as leader at the party’s conference in September, but would keep her seat and stand again for election to parliament, the spokesman said.

She has designated member of parliament Kristian Thulesen Dahl, one of the party’s leading MPs on economic policy, to succeed her, the daily Berlingske, which broke the story of her departure, said in its online edition.

During her 17 years at the helm, Kjaersgaard transformed what started as a fringe protest movement into a powerful force in Danish politics, even though it never joined a government.

Elected to parliament for the first time in 1984, Kjaersgaard, 65, gained leverage by backing successive centre-right minority coalition governments from 2001 to 2011 that relied on her party’s support to pass legislation.

She bartered that support for influence, including on immigration policy, forcing the governing parties to adopt some of the strictest immigration curbs in Europe and symbolising Danish opposition to the European Union and the euro currency.

Reporting by John Acher; Editing by Michael Roddy

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