Danish elections could pave the way for a centrist government

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s election on Tuesday is expected to change its political landscape, with new parties hoping to enter parliament and others seeing their support dwindle. A former prime minister who left his party to create a new one this year could become a kingmaker, with his votes needed to form a new government.

Neither the centre-left nor the centre-right are likely to capture the majority, which is 90 seats…

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s election on Tuesday is expected to change its political landscape, with new parties hoping to enter parliament and others seeing their support dwindle. A former prime minister who left his party to create a new one this year could become a kingmaker, with his votes needed to form a new government.

Neither the centre-left nor the centre-right are likely to win a majority, which is 90 seats in the 179-seat Folketing. That could leave former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in the central role as he seeks to fill the centre.

When an election was announced in October – seven months before the end of her four-year term – Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she wanted “an enlarged government with parties on both sides of the political centre”. She stressed that Denmark – like the rest of Europe – was going through difficult times and lawmakers needed to stick together.

The announcement came when an ally in his one-party minority Social Democratic government threatened to oust Frederiksen with a vote of confidence. Centre-left social liberals have criticized his government’s handling of the 2020 decision to cull Denmark’s entire captive mink population at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to protect humans from mutating the virus.

The slaughter led to heated controversy and the resignation of a minister. The necessary legislation was put in place more than a month after the culling began, and a parliamentary-appointed commission eventually criticized the government, saying Frederiksen had been “grossly misleading”.

Frederiksen said she was unaware the culling decision was illegal, but the Social Liberal Party stood by its ultimatum: hold a new election or face a vote of no confidence.

More than 4 million voters in the small northern European Union nation can choose from 14 parties on Tuesday. National themes dominated the campaign, ranging from tax cuts and the need to hire more nurses to financial support for Danes amid inflation and soaring energy prices due to Russia’s War in Ukraine.

The mink issue faded once the campaign started. Also absent from the debate is immigration, once a key political issue in Denmark, on which the main political parties now largely agree, said Kasper Møller Hansen, professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen. Over the past few decades, Denmark has adopted some of the strictest immigration laws in the EU.

At least three politicians are in the running to become prime minister. These include Frederiksen, who led Denmark through the COVID-19 pandemic and joined with the opposition to increase Danish defense spending following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the two centre-right opposition lawmakers – Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the Liberal leader, and Søren Pape Poulsen, who leads the Conservatives.

A former liberal leader, Løkke Rasmussen, lost to Frederiksen in 2019 and created his new centrist party in June. According to the polls, his moderates could get up to 10% of the vote. He hinted he could see a ruling coalition with the Social Democrats and could also be considered a candidate for prime minister.

The last time Denmark was governed by a centrist coalition was in 1978, when the Social Democrats joined forces with the Liberals. It lasted eight months.

The center-right bloc includes populist anti-immigration parties.

Among them, the Danish Democrats, created in June by the intransigent ex-Minister of Immigration Inger Støjberg. In 2021, Støjberg was convicted by the rarely used Court of Indictment for ordering in 2016 to separate asylum-seeking couples if one of the partners was a minor.

She has served her 60-day sentence and can now stand again. Pollsters say his party could get around 7% support. This could threaten the once powerful populist and anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, which has crumbled in recent months due to internal disputes and hovers around the 2% threshold needed to enter parliament. In 2015, the party obtained 21.1% of the votes.

The Danish People’s Party, which played a key role when Denmark tightened its immigration laws, saw leading members leave to join Støjberg’s party or simply quit politics. His party is similar to another – the small nationalist and anti-immigration New Right party – which is already in parliament. They called for a broad centre-right government.

The social liberals, who gave Frederiksen the ultimatum, could suffer a loss of support, mainly because voters do not trust the party. Its leader, Sofie Carsten Nielsen, said the party would, after all, support Frederiksen as prime minister – a statement she struggled to explain.

Møller Hansen believes that once the elections are over, talks to form a new Danish government will take time.

“I believe we will again see a minority government in Denmark, which would seek support from the left on climate issues and from the right on immigration,” he said.

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