On Tuesday, voters in Denmark went to the polls to vote in a snap election to elect the country’s new parliament. The election, which was scheduled to occur first in 2023, was called upon after an ultimatum by the liberal Danish Social Liberal Party after controversy of a nationwide mink cull in the country during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. The incumbent Social Democrats were the big winners on Tuesday night, earning more than 50 seats in the Danish Parliament.
A Mandate for the Governing Social Democrats
Tuesday’s election in Denmark was called due to an unlikely source. During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in November 2020, the Danish Government ordered a nationwide culling of around 13.5 million minks due to an outbreak of a particularly strong and contagious variant of Covid-19 was found to be present in many Danish minks. Many of the minks affected by the culling were incinerated to avoid contamination of the local groundwater.
The government-sponsored culling made international headlines and soon came under fire by many in the Government due to the findings of the Mink Commission, which found not only that Government ministers, including incumbent Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, attempted to delete information relating to the program, but also that the culling of the minks not only had no legal basis, but also was an unnecessary step in slowing the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
As a result of these findings, the center-liberal Danish Social Liberal Party, which was a part of the ruling coalition, issued an ultimatum to the Prime Minister, threatening to pull their support from the government if snap elections were not called. As the votes of the Social Liberal Party were necessary to keep the coalition functioning, snap elections were called for the beginning of November.
All 135 seats of the Folketing, the Danish Parliament, were up for election on Tuesday. Prime Minister Frederiksen’s “red bloc” of left-leaning parties was able to secure at least 90 seats in the Parliament, the minimum required to form a new government and her Social Democratic Party, which was at the center of the mink culling controversy, was able to gain two more seats in Parliament, a surprising result for many in the country. The Social Democrats earned 27.5% of the vote, or 50 seats, the best result for the party in over two decades.
As is common in Danish elections, the results were very close between the left-leaning “red bloc” and right-leaning “blue bloc”, in a country which has not seen the same party rule the country for successive terms in more than 20 years. In addition to the surprising showing for the Social Democrats, the Moderates, a brand-new party led by former conservative Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, earned 16 seats in the Parliament, and are now the third-strongest party in the Parliament.
A Win, but with a New Government
Despite their surprising victory on Tuesday, Prime Minister Frederiksen handed in the resignation of the current government to Danish Queen Margrethe II, as the Prime Minister looks to build a new government based around a broader coalition. Although it is not yet completely clear who will lead the talks to form a new government, it is widely expected that this role will go to Ms. Frederiksen. During an election night victory speech, the Prime Minister said that the Social Democrats are a “party for the whole of Denmark”, a slogan which has been hard to put into practice in a country where more than 16 parties (including two from both the Faroe Islands and Greenland) are represented in the Folketing.
By far the biggest losers in Tuesday’s election were the traditional center-right Venstre party, which lost 20 seats, and the far-right Danish People’s Party, which lost 11 seats. Meanwhile, the newly founded Denmark Democrats, led by former Minister of Immigration Inger Støjberg, won 14 seats in the Parliament. The party, which models itself largely on the Swedish Democrats in Sweden, has a hard anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and Eurosceptic agenda and are now the largest party, along with the Liberal Alliance who won 10 seats on Tuesday, on the far-right side of the right-leaning blue bloc.