Denmark’s opposition Social Democrats looked set to win Wednesday’s (5 June) general election, two exit polls suggested, after a poor showing for the far-right and a surge for the main green party.
Social Democrats led by Mette Frederiksen were ahead with around 25% of votes, and her left-wing bloc was set to win a majority with 90 of 179 seats, according to exit polls by public broadcasters DR and TV2 after polling stations closed at 1800 GMT.
The results, if confirmed, would signal a collapse for the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, which has informally supported Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s Liberal Party, in power for 14 of the last 18 years.
The Danish People’s Party, which has supported successive right-wing governments in exchange for tighter immigration policies for the last two decades, saw its support halved to around 10%.
As restrictive immigration policies have been broadly adopted by almost all other parties, the Danish People’s Party has lost its appeal.
The Social Democrats, last in power between 2011 and 2015, were widely seen as favourites going into the vote.
The Social Democrats — led by Frederiksen, a party veteran at 41 who made her debut in parliament at 24 — have also changed their tone on immigration.
On Wednesday, as Frederiksen cast her vote in the Copenhagen suburb of Varlose, she told reporters her party’s tougher immigration proposals were winning back supporters.
“Some Social Democrat voters who have been lost in the last few years, who didn’t support our migration policy, are returning this time,” she said.
Frederiksen herself denounced Denmark’s policy as one of the “toughest in Europe”, in the early 2000s.
But under her leadership, the Social Democrats last year proposed, as part of their crackdown on immigration, to send asylum seekers to special camps in North Africa while their requests are processed.
If the final results confirm a victory for the Social Democrats, the party has said it will form a minority government — common in Denmark’s proportional representation system — relying on the support of other parties to pass legislation.
As Denmark enjoys robust growth, almost full employment and strong public finances, the Social Democrats focused on climate issues and the defence of the welfare state, promising to reverse budget cuts to education and healthcare.
Political observers say the Social Democrats would likely cooperate with the right on immigration and with the left on other matters in the Scandinavian country, which is a member of the European Union but not the eurozone.
Climate top concern
Voter turnout, which is typically high, was expected to be at more than 80% of Denmark’s 4.2 million eligible voters, local media reported. In 2015, 85.9 percent cast their ballots.
According to a Gallup poll published in February, some 57% of Danes think the next government should prioritise climate change.
For those aged between 18 and 35, the figure was 69%.
Some voters at polling stations emphasised the health of the planet was a major concern.
“I think it’s climate that’s the most important, so that’s what I voted for,” said Amalie Falck-Schmidt, 29.
‘They’ve united us’
The Danish People’s Party’s slide has coincided with the emergence of two more extreme far-right parties, New Right and the anti-Muslim Hard Line, who, according to exit polls, were both hovering on the edge of breaking into parliament.
Jibran Sawar, a Danish Muslim who cast his vote with his family in the capital, said he wanted to use his vote to stop the country from taking a “course” that would be detrimental to Muslims.
Sawar said he knew many young Muslims, who did not normally vote, were doing the same.
“They (the far-right parties) have actually done something that a lot of Muslim leaders couldn’t do here in Denmark. They’ve united us,” he told AFP.
The Danish parliament, the Folketing, has 179 seats, four of which represent the autonomous territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which have two seats each.
To be eligible for a seat, a party must win at least two percent of votes.