Mette Frederiksen’s Social Democrats are on course to win Denmark’s general election, but whether they stay in government – and she keeps her job as prime minister – could depend on a new party led by one of her predecessors.
Frederiksen was forced to call Tuesday’s election when a leftist party backing her minority government withdrew support, and has said she wants “a broad coalition with parties on both sides of the political centre” to pilot the country through tough times.
But in a political landscape split between 14 parties, both her left-leaning “red bloc”, polling at about 49%, and the rival right-wing “blue bloc”, on 41%, look likely to fall short of the 90 seats needed for a majority in the 179-seat parliament.
Rasmussen has not said he will back either bloc, but if, as projected, the Moderate party secures about 10% of the vote, its 20-odd MPs would hold the balance of power in parliament – putting the former prime minister in the position of kingmaker.
Analysts have said he could use his post-election clout to engineer a broad coalition of more moderate parties from both the red and the blue blocs, something Denmark has not known since 1978, and even to argue that he should be the next prime minister.
The Moderates are “ready to work with the candidate who will facilitate the broadest cooperation around the centre to implement necessary reforms”, chiefly in areas such as healthcare and pensions, a party member, Jakob Engel-Schmidt, said.
But many observers have said they suspect that Rasmussen, who was prime minister from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2015 to 2019, and is known as a particularly tough negotiator, could hold out for a very senior post or perhaps even the top job.
“He’s a ferocious guy in negotiations,” Martin Ågerup, of the liberal thinktank Cepos, told Agence-France Presse. “He can basically manoeuvre until somebody gets scared enough to point to him and say: ‘Look, yes, you could be prime minister.’”
With surveys showing the Danes rank security and defence issues higher than at any time in the past three decades, Frederiksen’s party has begun a nationwide advertising campaign with the slogan “Safely through uncertain times”.
The prime minister won praise for navigating Denmark through the pandemic but her popularity has slipped, partly over a decision to cull the country’s entire captive mink population of 15m for fear of a Covid-19 variant moving to humans.
A parliament-appointed commission said in June that the government had lacked legal justification for the cull, which devastated Europe’s largest fur exporter, and that it had made “grossly misleading” statements when ordering the sector to be shut down.
Her centre-right rivals, however, have also lost ground, with the Conservative leader, Søren Pape Poulsen, hit by revelations about lies told by his former husband and the Liberals suffering from internal splits. Both reject the idea of consensus government.
Analysts say negotiations to form the new government could take weeks, with the right bloc likely to try to match or surpass every offer made to Rasmussen’s Moderates by the red bloc in an effort to regain power.
Denmark’s ever-stricter immigration policies have led to support falling for the far-right Danish People’s party, but a new party formed by another former Liberal politician, the former immigration minister Inger Støjberg, is on 8% and together, the three parties of the populist, anti-immigration right are forecast to win about 15% of the vote.
Source: The Guardian