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Denmark: Right wing government wins new term but far left advances

Aage Skovrind

10th February 2005

The Danish general elections on February 8th have left the country even more polarized, with two clear-cut blocks in the parliament. The far left Red-Green Alliance has consolidated itself as a stable force in Danish politics. The main challenge is now to convert the electoral progress to a strong movement against the right wing government that creates poverty, war and xenophobia.

Despite a loss of four seats in Parliament, the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is looking forward to a new term in government after the general elections. Their Conservative coalition partner gained two seats, while the far right, anti-immigration Danish Peoples Party, offering a parliamentary majority to the government, gained two seats.

The major changes took place inside the opposition bloc. Loosing five seats, the Social Democrats did not recover from their historic defeat in 2001 when they lost not only the government but also their century-long position as the biggest political party. During an electoral campaign marked by a personal media competition between the two candidates for prime minister, Mogens Lykketoft of the Social Democrats was not able to present a credible alternative, neither on a personal nor a political level.

Both candidates promised more or less the same improvements to welfare services such as health care, pensions, lower prices for child care, more spending on education and research etc. Fogh Rasmussen argued that the “tax break” (which primarily favoured high earners and owners of big estates) introduced by the government after the 2001 elections would continue. Rasmussen argued further that only the right wing government would be able to maintain the harsh immigration policies, which it had tightened. The restrictive immigration policy has caused international criticism of the right wing government, but the Social Democratic challenger declared he would not loosen it. The weakest point for the government was the rising unemployment rate since it came into power in 2001.

Although Lykketoft presented a job creation plan, and got a new argument when a slaughterhouse was closed and 450 workers were sacked at the beginning of the campaign, he failed to stand as a firm opposition. After all, the privatization and austerity policies of the bourgeois government are a continuation of the preceding Social Democratic government. Likewise, the party has supported deployment of Danish troops in Iraq and joined a national agreement to recommend the new European Constitution.

The big winner of the opposition was the Social Liberals, increasing their number of seats from 9 to 16. Unlike the Social Democrats, the party strongly opposes the anti-immigration policy of the bourgeois government – probably the strictest in Western Europe. Due to an image as the “responsible, humanitarian and fair-minded alternative”, the Social Liberals have grown increasingly popular among students and well-educated city dwellers. Their anti-union, pro-austerity and anti-social tax policies are less exposed. In some traditional working-class constituencies of Copenhagen, the party became the biggest party.

On the left, the reformist Social Peoples Party had another bad score and lost one seat. The party leader for the last 14 years, Holger K. Nielsen, resigned the day after the elections.

The far left Red-Green Alliance had its best result since the foundation of the party in 1994. With 3.4 % of the vote, the party increased its number of seats from four to six.

Several factors may explain the good result. Among them are the general right wing turn of the Socialist Peoples Party, in particular with its recommendation of the European Constitution (36 percent of the members voted against in a party referendum), an outstanding media performance by the young MP Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil (labelled by the media as the “election princess”), big support among first-time voters (the Alliance was one of the biggest parties in several high school elections), and a clear opposition to Danish involvement in the occupation of Iraq.

“The gains made by the party was one of three goals that we set for the campaign”, says MP Line Barfod.

“However”, she adds, “we didn’t succeed in changing the political balance towards the left or increasing the opposition to the war. And in overturning the government, we failed completely.”

However the Red-Green Alliance managed to carry through an active and well-coordinated electoral campaign, where almost all members have been involved. During the campaign the party gained 800 new members.

Among the next challenges for the party are the regional and municipal elections on November 15th, and the upcoming referendum on the European Constitution.

Aage Skovrind is press secretary of the Red Green Alliance.


Liberals                           29.0%   (-2.2%)     52     (-4)
Social Democrats          25.8%   (-3.3%)     47     (-5)
Danish Peoples Party   13.3%   (+1.3%)    24     (+2)
Conservatives                10.3%   (+1.2%)    18     (+2)
Social Liberals               9.2%     (+4.0%)    17     (+8)
Socialist Peoples Party 6.0%    (-0.4%)     11      (-1)
Red-Green Alliance       3.4%     (+1.0%)     6       (+2)
Others                              3.0%    (-1.6%)      0       (-4)

In addition to the 175 seats from mainland Denmark, four deputies were elected from the colonies of the Faeroe Islands (both seats won by pro-independence candidates) and Greenland (one social democrat and one left nationalist).


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