Denmark’s voters defied the recent trend in Europe, of right-wing electoral gains, and rewarded their centre-left Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in Tuesday’s parliamentary elections. Ms. Frederiksen, who was forced to call an early vote under pressure from her coalition partners, secured the best performance for the Social Democrats in two decades with 27.5% votes. The left-wing bloc she leads has won 87 seats in mainland Denmark, and one in Faroe island and two in Greenland, the autonomous Danish territory, taking its strength to 90, the majority needed in the 179-member assembly. The elections took place amid criticism of Ms. Frederiksen’s decision to cull millions of minks during the COVID-19 pandemic and pollsters had expected Ms. Frederiksen to suffer a setback. In the neighbouring Nordic country Sweden, and Italy in southern Europe, both of which went to polls in September, the far-right had made rapid gains. While in Sweden, the centre-left government was replaced by a right-wing government backed by a party with neo-Nazi origins, in Italy, a party with direct links to Mussolini’s Fascist Party was elected. In contrast, most Danish voters stood firmly behind the Social Democrats, the Green Left and the Social Liberals.
Before the elections, Ms. Frederiksen had said she would form a government with moderate centrist parties transcending the traditional right-left divisions of Danish politics. However, government formation would be the least of her worries. Like most European countries, Denmark is also struggling with a cost-of-living crisis — at 11.1%, Denmark’s inflation is higher than the EU average. There are worries about disruptions to gas supplies as the energy situation remains tense in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Denmark, one of the founding members of NATO, is also under pressure to step up defence spending along with other NATO members, especially after the war broke out. The war came closer for the Danes when the Nord Stream Russia-Europe undersea pipelines were damaged in explosions off the Danish coast in September. And while the left-wing coalition’s victory could strengthen Ms. Frederiksen politically, Denmark is not completely immune to the far-right problem. The Denmark Democrats, a new far-right party being led by a former Minister who was in prison for unlawful separation of asylum seekers, entered Parliament with 8.1% of the votes. So, Ms. Frederiksen’s task is already cut out. She might look stronger today, but is still vulnerable. For continued political success, she has to begin with easing the cost-of-living crisis, while keeping the effects of the war minimal on the Danish public.
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