Denmark election: Mette Frederiksen seeks new government after surprise victory

Left-wing parties claim a majority of one on election night

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen celebrates her party's election night gains. Reuters
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Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was poised to form a new government on Wednesday after winning a snap general election.

A left-wing bloc led by Ms Frederiksen's Social Democrats won 90 out of 179 seats in the new parliament, a majority of one.

The left's control was confirmed on Wednesday morning when it took two late-declaring seats in Greenland.

However, Ms Frederiksen could seek to build a wider coalition, possibly including the Moderate Party founded by former prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

She was expected to see Denmark's Queen Margrethe II on Wednesday after her party made gains on the last election to win 50 seats and 27.5 per cent of the vote.

Polls suggested the Social Democrats would lose ground after a scandal surrounding a mink cull, ordered by Ms Frederiksen to combat the coronavirus, which led to the snap election.

“I am so thrilled and proud. We have got the best election result in 20 years,” Ms Frederiksen told supporters in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

On election night, a hung parliament appeared likely until the leftist bloc closed in on a majority.

It was a bad night for centre-right candidates vying for Ms Frederiksen's job, as the Liberal Party lost 20 seats and the Conservative Party lost two.

Moderate Party leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen had been expected to be kingmaker after the election. AFP

But Mr Rasmussen's Moderates, who had been tipped as post-election kingmakers, rode a surge in the polls to take 16 seats in their first campaign.

The party took about 9.3 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary results, after polling at barely two per cent only weeks ago.

Mr Rasmussen, the prime minister from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2015 to 2019, said his party wanted to be a bridge between left and right.

“I know for sure that Denmark needs a new government,” Mr Rasmussen told supporters. “It's not red or blue, it's about common sense.”

The Liberals, too, did not rule out joining a unity government.

Ms Frederiksen will formally resign on behalf of the old government but will seek to be chosen as “royal investigator” to build a new coalition.

Turnout at the election was 84.1 per cent, the lowest in Denmark for 30 years but high by the standards of many European countries.

The drama of the campaign and election night was compared to the TV series Borgen, a show about Danish politics that became an international hit.

Ms Frederiksen, 44, said challenges were piling up for Denmark as it tackled energy scarcity, inflation, climate change and war in Europe.

The tension with Russia recently arrived in Danish waters when the Nord Stream gas pipelines were blown up.

Denmark goes to the polls — in pictures

But the election result could allow Ms Frederiksen to move on from the mink scandal that overshadowed the past two years of her term.

The mink cull decimated Denmark's fur industry, led to images of mass graves and prompted investigations that found Ms Frederiksen acted unlawfully and misled the public.

One of the parties supporting Ms Frederiksen's government threatened to topple it unless she called an election to regain the confidence of voters.

Ms Frederiksen's government took a hard line on immigration, which was not a major issue in the campaign as parties focused on inflation, the environment and protecting the welfare state.

She teamed up with the opposition to increase Nato member Denmark’s defence spending following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ms Frederiksen has also floated the idea of healthcare reform under a new government, a central theme of Mr Rasmussen's campaign.

Updated: November 02, 2022, 9:44 AM