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Following the victory of the Social Democrats in Denmark’s general election, Open Europe’s Marcus Cadier argues that the centre-left party will have to position themselves carefully in the coming years if they are to keep their voting coalition intact.
6 June 2019
In the Danish general election yesterday, the centre-left bloc led by the Social Democrats received 91 seats, against 75 for the centre-right governing coalition. Social Democrat leader Mette Frederiksen will now seek to form a government. It remains uncertain as to how the final coalition formation will look. The Social Democrats have shifted their position in recent years; they now have a tough stance on migration, coupled with progressive policies on the environment and welfare. Their position on immigration has won them votes from the right, but lost them votes on the left. However, the latter have largely migrated to other centre-left parties who will likely support the Social Democrats in government.
This strategy appears to have paid off, as the overall result for the centre-left ‘red bloc’ has increased – the Social Democrats themselves only gained one seat, but strong performances by the smaller left parties meant the bloc as a whole gained eleven seats. Estimates suggest that around 9% of the Social Democrat voters came from the Danish People’s Party, while 4% came from the centre-right Liberal Party. Frederiksen has said that she wishes to form a minority Social Democrat administration. Indeed, relying on other parties on a vote-by-vote basis, rather than a formal coalition, could be a smart move. In theory, it would allow a Social Democrat government to push through redistributive policies on welfare with the help of the other left-wing parties, and restrictive immigration policies with the support of the right-wing parties.
The centre-right ‘blue bloc’ (including the populist Danish People’s Party) trailed the red bloc by 16 seats. This was despite the fact that the leading party of the group, the Liberal Party of outgoing Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, increased their seats by 9, while the Conservative People’s Party also gained 6 new seats. However, with the Danish People’s Party losing 21 seats compared to 2015, the blue bloc does not have enough support to form a government from the right, with little chance of support from the left. The collapse of the People’s Party may well be because they are no longer the only choice for parties advocating stricter immigration policies.
The far-right Hard Line party, who had campaigned for “ethnic Danes” did not get in to parliament as projections suggested, but fell short by less than one percent. However, the New Right, who are in favour of a complete halt for asylum seekers coming to Denmark, won four seats. The success of these two new parties in picking up votes suggests that the migration issue is still prominent in Danish politics.
The results of the general election largely reflect those of the European Parliament election last month. The main difference was that in May, the Liberal Party (23.5%) received slightly more votes than the Social Democrats (21.4%). The overall picture, however, is similar; the centre-left bloc outnumbered the centre-right bloc in both elections.
The Social Democrat party have a successful mix of popular policies on the environment, migration and welfare, which ultimately helped them win the election. However, some of their voters have gone from the party to other centre-left or liberal parties because of the Social Democrats’ shift to the right on immigration. The challenge for the new government will be to keep both pro-immigration and anti-immigration voters satisfied. They will also face a difficult balancing act in parliament – they are likely to need support from both sides at different times without making enemies of one or the other.