Tuesday

20th Aug 2019

Denmark set to complete social democrat sweep of Nordics

  • A new social democrat prime minister in Copenhagen would complete a power shift - with all Nordic EU countries being ruled by social democrats (Photo: EUobserver)

If one cannot remember the name of the Danish prime minister it is a pretty good guess to opt for Rasmussen.

Three out of four prime minister have held that name during the past 25 years, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and latest Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

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  • Social Democrat Mette Frederiksen is polling to win the national elections and become Denmark's second female prime minister (Photo: Social Demokratiet)

But from this week, the name at the Danish place card at EU summit table is likely to change to Frederiksen.

Mette Frederiksen is a Danish Social Democrat politician, 41 years of age, but already a member of the Danish parliament since 2001, and served Helle Thorning-Schmidt's social democrat government as a minister of employment as well as justice.

On Wednesday (5 June) Frederiksen is expected to win the national parliament elections and become Denmark's second female prime minster.

She will however not be able to rule alone, but must build her government on support from smaller parties from the left and the centre of the social democrats.

A new social democrat prime minister in Copenhagen would complete a power shift - with all Nordic EU countries to be ruled by social democrats, with Sweden's Stefan Lofven appointed for a second term in January and Finland's Antti Rinne about to take the lead of a new five-party coalition following April elections.

Despite the opinion polls, current prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, has not given up.

Less than two weeks ago his Liberal party, Venstre, scooped the polling institutes and came out victorious as the biggest party in European parliamentary elections.

Venstre won four seats in the European parliament for the Alde group - one of the seats, however, only to be filled after Brexit.

The opposition party, Frederiksen's Social Democrats came second, winning three seats.

But national elections are different from European.

The polls predict a safe 25.7 percent for the social democrats against the Liberals 20.7 percent in the national elections, according to an Epinion survey published by Danmarks Radio on 4 June.

Danish People's party plummets

The Danish People's party (DF) is polling third with 9.6 percent, which is less than half its result in the last elections in 2015, when the national-conservative party came second with 21.1 percent support.

The party also lost support in last month's European elections, winning just one seat compared to four in the 2014 elections, when Morten Messerschmidt lead the EU campaign.

This time round, DF had pledged to shift from the ECR group in the European Parliament, to join Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen's new populist grouping.

Lokke Rasmussen has ruled Denmark for the past four years only thanks to support from the DF, meaning that a bad result in Wednesday's elections for the EU-sceptical DF party most likely will oust the pro-European Liberal prime minister - even if he has a good election result.

Migration issues were a top-priority for Danish voters in the past five-ten years, but the mood in the EU elections as well as in Wednesday's national election has shifted to rank health and climate as their current top-priorities.

Parties, such as the Danish People's party and the Liberal Alliance, not having a very clear climate policy stand to lose support.

The Danish People's party's support for Lokke Rasmussen's liberal government has also opened a gap to the right in politics, with two new hard-right parties both polling very close to passing the two percent threshold and enter parliament for the first time.

Vestager support

Regardless of whether the Danish prime minister is Rasmussen or Frederiksen at the next EU summit on 20-21 June, it will be one of the prime minster's first tasks to place Denmark as strong as possible in the new distribution of top posts in the EU institutions.

As one of the leading candidates for an EU top post is Danish, competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, it should an easy talks.

But while Lokke Rasmussen has publicly and at EU level voiced support for her, the social democrat leader has not pledged to support Vestager - who ran as a Spitzenkandidat for the liberal Alde party.

The Nordic countries are small in a European context.

But represented potentially now by three social democrat prime minsters they will contribute to the overall shift of power within the EU institutions since the last elections in 2014.

Five years ago, the Christian Democrat European People's Party dominated the EU institutions, with most seats in the parliament as well as at the EU council.

The liberals were represented only by Mark Rutte from the Netherlands in 2014.

This time round the three major parties in Europe are more equal in power at the European summits.

And the Nordic countries will most likely send three social democrats to the table.

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