Denmark Election

Denmark tilts leftward but with a rider

Sankar Ray

Forty-one-year old Mette Frederiksen of the centre-left Social demokratiet (Social Democratic Party) seems set for taking over as the Prime Minister of Denmark replacing Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Danmarks Liberale Parti (Liberal Party of Denmark). Social demokratiet which is now the single largest party with 48 MPs in the 179 member Folketing (people's thing), Danish Parliament, forming an alliance with the Socialist People's Party, Red-Green Alliance. Parties in support of Frederiksen including Social demokratiet have 91 MPs against 75 of right-of-centre "blue bloc" supporting Rasmussen. The deciding reason for the electoral success of Social demokratiet was the 'immigrant push back' policy which has been vociferously campaigned for by Rasmussen and his party. In a way, Frederiksen, about turn on the question of migrants dulled the socialist shine of her party which toed Rasmussen toughened decisions like confiscating jewellery from asylum seekers, banning Islamic face veils, and seeking harsher criminal penalties for perpetrators in migrant ghettoes.

However, the far-right Dansk Folkeparti, (DF) Danish People's Party's poll share dropped from 21.1 percent to 8.7 pc, causing its strength in the Folketing fro, 37 to 16 - a clear sign of Danes' chagrin towards the extremist right. The party had torched copies of Quoran in public. A new far-right party, Stram Kurs, which wants to ban Islam, failed to reach the two-percent threshold to enter Folketing. At the same time, Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten - De Rød-Grønne) which did not endorse policies of ghettoisation of migrants and tough penalties had lost one seat. Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Folketing will have a new look, provided Rasmussen put up hindrances. Apparently, he accepted the defeat as the share of votes polled by his party was 23.4 p.c. Yet he offered to form a grand coalition with Frederiksen. "As things stand, Mette Frederiksen has a chance to form a government, [but] I don't think it will be easy for her," he stated. Rasmussen was very much present at the 'Vibrant Gujarat summit' in 2017 in Gandhinagar.

Frederiksen is in all probability to be the youngest premier and the first Left-leaning PM of Europe. She was elected an MP when she was 24. "After tonight, we will put welfare first in Denmark again - Welfare, climate, education, children future. Think of what we can do together. We now have the hope to change Denmark" were Frederiksen's first reaction after the results for the Folketing were announced. "This has been a welfare election, and the voters' verdict has been completely clear. From now on, we make welfare the top priority in Denmark", she added.

Social demokratiet which got 25.9 p.c. of votes allies conspicuously improved their strength. The Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), formerly led by Denmark's EU commissioner Margerthe Vestager, doubled its tally from eight to 16 with corresponding poll shares of 8.6 p.c., and 6.9 p.c. The Socialist People's Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti) also doubled its strength from seven to 14 with a vote share of 7.7 p.c., while the Red-Green Alliance bagged 13 seats with the poll share of 6.9 p.c.

Skeptics are no mum. "Frederiksen's policy has been to play the devil, the humanitarian and the dissembler. Social welfare has been returned to the centre of political discussions, but the issue of refugees and asylum seekers has also prominently and negatively featured. To TV2 she spoke of her interest in implementing "an economic plan that benefits the fight against inequality and invests in welfare." The civic compact of the welfare state is to be renewed, but the outsiders, those desperate to be admitted to it, are to be kept at arm's length", wrote Binoy Kampmark, commentator with the International Policy Digest. None the less, social democrats are upbeat. "We believe that it is very important for Denmark that we continue with a firm and realistic immigration policy. We recognize that Denmark has a responsibility to assist people in need, but we are also aware that there are limits to how many people we can receive, if we are to maintain our welfare state and have an immigration policy that works." Nicolai Wammen, Social Democrat law-maker and ex-minister, told Brussels newspaper Politico.

Denmark is one of the most libertarian democracies, very much unique too. "Whenever a major project is undertaken, every citizen gets a synopsis and a questionnaire, related to it. The replies reach the government which places the opinion of the majority before the parliament," said Prof Sujay Basu, the first director, School of Energy Studies, Jadavpur University, who made several visits to Denmark.

Vol. 51, No. 51, Jun 23 - 29, 2019