Main menu


Denmark's centre-left prime minister secures slender majority

featured image

Denmark’s centre-left prime minister Mette Frederiksen has secured the slimmest of majorities in the country’s parliamentary election but will struggle to form a viable government coalition.

Frederiksen’s leftwing block won 28 per cent of the vote and exactly the 90 seats needed for a majority, thanks to three mandates from Greenland and the Faroe Islands, after a nail-biting election on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, Frederiksen repeated his campaign promise to try to form a centrist coalition between both left and rightwing parties and said his current government would resign.

“The Social Democrats went to the polls to form a broad government. If a majority of parties point to me [as prime minister] I will see whether it can be done. Because that is what is good for Denmark,” Frederiksen said after her Social Democrats secured their best election results in two decades.

The outcome is a big victory for Frederiksen, who was forced to call early elections after his government’s botched cull of up to 17mn mink last year.

Frederiksen, who is widely regarded as the most powerful prime minister in Danish history, emphasized his decisive response to the Covid-19 pandemic during the campaign and argued the Scandinavian country needed a safe pair of hands to steer it through a cost of living crisis and increased tensions with Russia in the Baltic Sea.

Until now, Danish politics has stuck strictly to separate left and rightwing blocs that have taken turns in governing.

But both Frederiksen and her predecessor Lars Løkke Rasmussen have said they would like to see a centrist government involving the main parties from both the left and right to minimize the influence of smaller parties, particularly those on the extremes.

Rasmussen’s Moderates party, founded just six months ago, became the third-largest group in parliament, with 16 seats, and has said it could back either a leftwing or rightwing government.

Former Social Democrat prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt told the Financial Times: “It could be a new way of doing things. We’ve never had so much talk about this middle ground and finding compromises in the middle. This is a very interesting evening in Danish politics.”

Rasmussen said on Wednesday that Frederiksen should be granted the first chance of forming a government. Jakob Engel-Schmidt, political head of the Moderates, told the FT that his party wanted a government with both left and rightwing parties.

“With the security situation in Europe, the energy crisis, the inflation crisis, we believe that politicians need to come together and make certain reforms that take care of the welfare state for the future,” he added.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen walks to a polling station

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the former premier, says he would like a government made up of both right and leftwing parties © Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

But Frederiksen will face a tricky negotiating task. Several of the smaller parties on the left want her to form a pure leftwing government rather than include the Moderates or centre-right parties.

No fewer than 14 parties have sought entry into parliament and 12 gained seats — with four more groups likely to come from the Faroe Islands and Greenland — leading to one of the most fragmented political landscapes in Europe.

Frederiksen moved her Social Democrats sharply to the right on issues such as migration before the previous election, which has caused support for the populist Danish People’s party to collapse.

The second-most popular party in 2015, when one in five Danes backed them, the Danish People’s party polled just above the 2 per cent threshold needed to enter parliament on Tuesday, its worst result.

The main party on the right, the Liberals, Rasmussen’s former party, also had its worst result in 34 years, scoring about 13 per cent.