Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark

DenmarkGeorge Candon and Charlotte Norlund-Matthiessen reflect on the results of the Danish general election

The words of Shakespeare resounded in the minds of many this morning as the Danish political thriller took a sharp turn to the right yesterday night.

Following a tight race that many had said was too close to call, Helle Thorning-Schmidt is stepping down as Prime Minister and as leader of the Social Democrat Party. While her own party is still the largest in parliament, the left-wing bloc she led was narrowly defeated by the right-wing coalition, who squeezed in an overall majority of just one seat.

The far-right Danish People’s Party was yesterday’s big winner. Led by Kristian Thulesen Dahl, it surprised many by increasing its tally by 15 seats to take 37 seats of the grouping’s 90 seats, which was largely at the expense of centre-right parties, making them the largest in the right-wing block.

The big losers are the red alliance’s Socialistisk Folkeparti and Radikale Venstre (Margrethe Vestager’s party led by Morten Østergaard) both of which lost over half of their seats, taking just seven and eight apiece. Vestager will definitely be staying in Brussels for the long haul.

But this doesn’t mean that Dahl will necessarily take up the mantle of PM – he has said that what’s important is influence, not power. By propping up a minority government he allows his party to continue heckling from the margins, where it won’t have to compromise its principles. It has wasted no time in already calling for tighter border controls. Other topical EU debates such as opt-in on justice and home affairs and strict asylum politics are surely looming.

Løkke Rasmussen, leader of Venstre, then looks like the farvourite to lead a right-wing minority government, but he’s already downplaying the prospect: “We are not interested in the keys just for the sake of having the keys. The following days will show whether it is possible to find a majority behind a government that will push Denmark the right way and of which we can take leadership”.

British eurosceptics and Brexit advocates may be licking their lips in anticipation of what these election results will bring. But Cameron will also be encouraged as Rasmussen also wants EU reforms. If he can build a coalition of supporters for reform and a brake on integration he may well be able to secure the ‘concessions from Brussels’ that he can sell back to his home electorate to keep the UK in the European club.

George Candon is a Senior Director and political commentator at FTI Consulting Brussels. He has made several appearances on Sky News commenting on EU political developments. Charlotte Norlund-Matthiessen is a Danish national and a Consultant at FTI Consulting Brussels.

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