By Elin Herskin
Last Tuesday, Danish voters went to the polls in what would turn out to be the most dramatic election in decades. The election campaign revolved around the creation of a broad, central government comprised of parties from both sides of the political spectrum. Incumbent Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and her coalition ultimately secured a narrow majority, posing the question of whether Frederiksen will honour her election promise of a broad coalition.
Traditionally, the primary battle in Danish politics is fought between two broad coalitions: The Liberalist/Conservative coalition known as the blue bloc and the Social Democratic coalition known as the red bloc. The red bloc won the last election in 2019, allowing the Social Democrats to form a one-party government led by Prime Minister Frederiksen. For this election, however, new developments have altered the traditional red-blue divide in Danish politics. In January, former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen created his new party, Moderaterne or the Moderate – yes the same name as Birgitte Nyborg’s party in the acclaimed Danish political drama Borgen. Leading up to the election, Løkke refused to declare support for either of the two blocs, arguing for a broad, central government that would return power to the middle of Danish politics.
After an election campaign where the European energy crisis and mounting pressure on the Danish health care system have been the main points of contention, Tuesday’s election would determine whether Frederiksen, a divisive figure among the Danish population, would stay in power. While some have applauded the 44-year-old Social Democrat for leading Denmark through a period of crises, others have criticised her for being self-willed and centralising power around herself. Most notable was Frederiksen’s decision to slaughter all 17 million Danish minks out of fear of Covid-19 mutations without legal justification, followed up by “grossly misleading” statements according to a parliament-appointed commission.
When the polls closed at 8 on Tuesday night, predictions on who would reach a majority began. The magic number to form a majority government in Danish politics is 90, in the 179-seat parliament which is informally known as The Castle. Tension was rising as the two largest media platforms in Denmark predicted different outcomes, and for a long time, it looked as if Frederiksen would lose her majority. However, as the hours went by and more and more votes were counted, the Social Democratic coalition slowly caught up with Moderaterne and the blue coalition. Around midnight when 99.8% of the votes had been counted, the predicted outcome was 89 seats for Frederiksen, leaving the red bloc just one short of achieving a majority. But in politics, there is always a twist in the tail, and after the final 0.2% were accounted for the result changed and revealed that Frederiksen and her coalition had reached the necessary 90 seats. The North Atlantic votes from Greenland and the Faroe Islands tipped the balance, each having two parliamentary seats, and three out of those four went to the red bloc. Frederiksen’s party, the Social Democrats, gained two seats compared to their result in 2019 and became the largest party with 50 seats. In addition to Frederiksen securing her majority, another noteworthy election outcome was Løkke’s Moderaterne winning 16 seats and becoming the third-largest party. However, because of Frederiksen’s majority, Løkke does not wield enough seats or power to gain the role of kingmaker despite an otherwise impressive showing.
The election results were generally characterised by the emergence and success of new political parties, while the traditional parties suffered heavy losses. Most notable was the loss suffered by Venstre, The Liberal Party, who lost an astounding 20 seats. Another party that suffered a dramatic loss on Tuesday night was Radikale Venstre, The Social Liberal Party. Ironically, Radikale Venstre and leader Sofie Carsten Nielsen were the reason for the election in the first place. The party has criticised Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen for being self-willed and centralising power around herself, giving her an ultimatum to either hold the election or lose their support within the red-bloc coalition. Nevertheless, Radikale Venstre proceeded to declare their support for Frederiksen as Prime Minister after the election, arguing that if the new government included more parties than just the Social Democrats, Radikale Venstre would support it. Perhaps this somewhat contradictory course of action can explain the party’s disastrous election results, as Radikale lost 9 of their 16 seats. With the party more than halved, Sofie Carsten Nielsen resigned as the party’s leader on Wednesday night. Whether she will be the only party leader to suffer the ultimate consequence of Tuesday’s election remains to be seen.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and The Social Democrats came out on top after Tuesday’s election and achieved their best result in more than 20 years. As a result, Frederiksen will now be able to form a government using only the mandates of the red coalition. However, nothing is final yet as negotiations begin between her and the other parties to determine who can form a government. Will Frederiksen use her narrow majority to form a strictly red-bloc government and break her election promise of a broad coalition? Or will she include parties from the other side of the spectrum, most likely former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, and the Moderates? That will all depend on the upcoming negotiations.
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