There's no such thing in Europe these days as a purely domestic general election. And yesterday's victory by the right in Denmark, true to such recent form, will not only usher in a new era in Denmark but send ripples through the dynamics of EU politics in capitals and in the European Council.
In London, in particular, the winning Danish right wing parties’ election pledge to back David Cameron’s EU reform agenda will be particularly pleasing, not least because one of their number the populist, anti-immigrant and anti-EU Danish People’s Party (DF) is also demanding an in-out referendum as a condition for joining government (the party wants regular referendums on EU issues, a prospect that will alarm many member states who fear the “Irish disease”).
The defeat of Social Democratic prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who has resigned as party leader, is also a blow to a currently struggling European left. She lost the election though her party improved slightly and remained Denmark’s largest. The smaller members in her coalition lost support.
The tide of anti-immigrant feeling that has infected politics across the continent in the aftermath of the economic crisis has reshaped the once-liberal Danish political agenda and set the tone for this election. Even the Social Democrats campaigned for restrictions on benefits for migrants, while the DF demanded border controls be reintroduced on the frontiers with Germany and Sweden.
That tide lifted the DF vote nine points from four years ago to 21 per cent, even passing out the Liberals, and into an almost certain first cabinet role. The party remains toxic, however, and would not itself be able to build or lead a governing coalition.
That task will fall to Liberal leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen, a former prime minister, whose own party slumped 7.2 percentage points. But, with the support of the DF, either inside or outside cabinet, he should be able to muster just more than the 90 required votes in the Folketing .