Denmark has seen two major elections in 2019: European and two weeks later parliamentary. In both cases, voters moved away from populist parties, chose the mainstream parties – and provided Progressives with election victories. Specifically, the parliamentary elections resulted in a move to the left, unseen since 1971. Voters clearly want their representatives to focus on welfare, after years of cuts on education and healthcare. Climate issues also played a major role in the election campaign of the centre-left political parties.
In Denmark, political parties are divided into two blocs: the “red bloc” comprised of the United Left, Socialist People’s Party, the Social Democrats and the Social Liberals (the party of the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager) and the “blue bloc” which includes the Liberals, the Conservative Party, Liberal Alliance and the Danish People’s Party.
Since the election in 2001, a strict policy on immigration and asylum has been the key to government in Denmark. After having voted in favour of many of the ruling right-wing government policies on immigration between 2015-2019, the Social Democrat leader Mette Frederiksen succeed in regaining the trust of many voters that had defected to the Eurosceptic and nationalist Danish People’s Party (DDP) over the last 20 years.
But at the same time, the Social Democrats lost voters to the other parties in the red bloc, not least in Copenhagen and in other cities, and the final result was that the Social Democrats did not make major wins at the election, but mainly maintained the status quo of 25,9% of the votes (48 mandates) which is not very different from the last election where they got 26,3% (47 mandates). The combined votes of the 3 other parties of the bloc almost equal those of the Social Democrats. The red bloc ended having 91 MPs out of the total 175 seats. In addition, there are four ‘North Atlantic mandates’ (from the Faroe Islands and Greenland), which are divided in 3 from the red bloc and 1 from the blue.
In general, voters returned to the traditional mainstream parties and both the Liberals of the outgoing Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and the Conservatives party improved their score from 2015. Already at the EU election, it become clear the pro-European parties made their best result ever – while the far-right Danish People’s Party (DPP) lost half of their support.
In 2015, the DPP had become the second biggest party in Denmark with 21,1% of the votes. When DPP lost more than half of its seats in the current national election, it was the biggest loss for a political party in Denmark since World War II. The DPP has heavily influenced Denmark´s policy over the past two decades by constantly demanding restrictions on immigration and asylum.
But this does not hail the end of the anti-immigration extreme right in Denmark. Two new anti-immigration parties appeared in the election. A party called Nye Borgerlige (New Right), that accuses the DPP of not being tough enough on immigrants, got 5 mandates with 2,3% of the votes. They want to deport immigrants that cannot sustain themselves and stop giving asylum. The other extreme right party, Stram Kurs (Hard Line), wants an outright ‘ban on Islam’ and to deport most of foreigners from Denmark if they don’t have at least 3 Danish grandparents. With 1,8% of the votes, this party and failed to reach the 2%-threshold for a seat in the Danish Parliament. Despite the emergence of these new parties, all together the extreme right has lost 17 mandates in Denmark.
If Mette Frederiksen fails to get support from the other parties of the red bloc, the former liberal PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has offered her to form a “grand coalition”
The day after the election, Mette Frederiksen was nominated as Royal Investigator by Queen Margrethe to start the negotiations to form a new government. She has said that she intends to form a minority government with ad hoc support from different parties, as she doesn´t want to give up the strict policy on immigration which will be difficult for the other parties of the left to support.
But she will also face tough negotiations on other issues. For sure the red bloc can easily compromise on climate targets, improvements in the education sector, more staff in kindergartens, etc., but when it comes to economic policies there is a long distance between the United Left and the Social Liberals. The Social Liberals will also insist on opening the labour market for migrants from 3rd countries.
If Mette Frederiksen fails to get support from the other parties of the red bloc, the former liberal PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has offered her to form a “grand coalition”, but the most probable outcome is that within a month the Danes will have a new Social Democratic government.