Denmark’s Social Democrats to form minority government

Mette Frederiksen to become youngest PM after party softens anti-immigration stance

Mette Frederiksen of the Danish Social Democrats: has agreed to reverse some of the strict immigration curbs adopted by the outgoing centre-right government. Photograph: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Mette Frederiksen of the Danish Social Democrats: has agreed to reverse some of the strict immigration curbs adopted by the outgoing centre-right government. Photograph: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

 

Mette Frederiksen is to become Denmark’s youngest prime minister after her Social Democratic party agreed to soften its anti-immigration stance and form a minority government with the backing of three other left-leaning parties.

Ms Frederiksen (41) led her party to victory in a general election on June 5th after adopting a tougher approach on immigration. But under the deal struck late on Tuesday after three weeks of talks with the Socialist People’s party, the Red Green Unity List and the centrist Social Liberals, she has agreed to reverse some of the strict immigration curbs adopted by the outgoing centre-right government.

Her ascent to power in Copenhagen is the latest example of resurgence among Europe’s traditional social democratic parties despite their woes in the EU’s largest member states. It follows the victory of the centre-left in national elections in Spain, Finland and Sweden and a better-than-expected showing for the Dutch Labour party and Italy’s Democratic party in the European Parliament elections last month. Portugal is also expected to return a centre-left government in elections later this year.

Hardline rhetoric

Ms Frederiksen’s Social Democrats won 48 of the 179 seats in Denmark’s parliament, the Folketing, but were part of a centre-left bloc that secured a combined 91 seats against 75 for the centre-right. She will succeed Lars Loekke Rasmussen as prime minister.

The Social Democrats abandoned a more liberal stance on immigration in favour of more hardline rhetoric and policies.

It appeared to pay off. Although the centre-left lost some ground in the election, the fiercely anti-immigration Danish People’s party, which had supported Mr Rasmussen’s administration, was crushed, losing more than half its vote share.

In order to secure parliamentary support for a minority government from other left-leaning parties, the Social Democrats appear to have watered down their anti-immigration stance. They have abandoned Mr Rasmussen’s plan to detain foreign criminals on an island once used as a testing centre for contagious animal diseases. They will also rejoin a scheme to take in refugees under a UN quota.

Carbon and poverty

Other priorities for the new government are speeding up the reduction in carbon emissions and spending more to reduce child poverty.

The agreement is not comprehensive and Ms Frederiksen said she was open to working with other parties on other issues, including the economy.

“Nobody is bound by this agreement but this is what the parties have in common,” said Prof Karina Kosiara-Pedersen of the University of Copenhagen.

One early question for other EU leaders is whether the new prime minister will support her compatriot Margrethe Vestager for a top job in Europe, possibly as European Commission president.

Ms Vestager, currently EU competition commissioner and a former deputy prime minister of Denmark, comes from the Social Liberals, one of the parties backing Ms Frederiksen.

Relations between the two women are said to be frosty, but Ms Frederiksen said earlier this month that Copenhagen would back Ms Vestager if she was “close to being able to become the president”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019