Close race seen as Denmark calls for November elections

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Wednesday called snap parliamentary elections for November 1, with her left bloc neck and neck in the polls against the right and the extreme right.

“I informed the Queen today that elections to the Folketing (Parliament) will be held,” the Socialist leader told a news conference.

Frederiksen has been in office since June 2019 and under the Danish system had to call new elections by June 2023.

But she had faced an ultimatum from a small party supporting her minority government, demanding that she call elections before the first parliamentary debate on October 6, after reconvening on Tuesday after the summer recess.

Recent polls give the “Red Bloc” of several left-wing parties, led by the Social Democrats, between 47 and 50 percent of the vote, compared with 49-50 percent for the “Blue Bloc”, which includes the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and three right-wing national parties .

– mink scandal –

In terms of seats, neither bloc has a majority in parliament.

Frederiksen, 44, has adopted tough migration restrictions in the name of defending the welfare state, but she is still the favorite among voters to remain in her post.

According to a recent poll, 49.4 percent want her to serve a second term, compared to 27.4 percent for Conservative Party leader Soren Pape Poulsen and 23.3 percent for the Liberal Party’s Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, who challenge them both for the post.

Frederiksen, a social media enthusiast, is now struggling with soaring inflation caused by Europe’s energy crisis.

While her overall management of the country during the pandemic has been praised, she has faced a barrage of criticism for her handling of the “mink affair.”

Amid a worrying outbreak of a variant of the novel coronavirus in mink – whose pelts Denmark was previously the world’s largest exporter – the center-left leader ordered the culling of more than 15 million animals in November 2020.

Shortly thereafter, but while the culling was already underway, it emerged that the government had no legal basis to impose culling on farmers, dealing a severe blow to the prime minister.

In early July, a commission set up to investigate guilt in the affair reprimanded Frederiksen, but with no further consequences.

– Fragmented Politics –

Nevertheless, the matter has become a political saga in the country of the political TV hit “Borgen” – this is also the nickname of Christiansborg, the Danish seat of parliament and government.

After the rebuke, the Radical Left urged the prime minister to call snap elections or they would overthrow the government by joining the opposition in a no-confidence vote.

“This is the first time that a legal scandal has led more or less directly to elections, even if ‘the fall of the government’ happens in slow motion,” constitutional expert Frederik Waage told the AFP news agency.

At the beginning of September, the six opposition parties also published an open letter in which they called for the prime minister to call new elections.

The Danish political landscape is more fragmented than ever, with polls suggesting a total of 13 parties are likely to win seats in parliament and 45 per cent of voters claim to have switched parties since the last election.

Even the extreme right, long dominated by the Danish People’s Party (DF), which has supported several right-wing governments in the past, is now fragmented, with two other rival nationalist formations emerging in recent years, the New Right and the Danish Democrats.

The latter – whose name mimics that of Sweden’s far-right Sweden Democrats – is a new party founded by former immigration minister Inger Stojberg. In the polls, she is credited with a share of the vote of nine percent.

Stojberg is back in the political limelight after serving two months in an electronic tag last year for deciding to separate spouses from asylum seekers when one of them was a minor – a move later ruled illegal.

Voter turnout is traditionally high in Denmark. In the 2019 election, 84.6 percent of the approximately 4.2 million voters went to the polls.