Denmark’s election: a shifting landscape

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Denmark’s “government and people are in the midst of major social transitions”, writes Ann-Christina Knudsen for Open Democracy.

The November commentary argues that this transition was reflected in the core themes of the country’s recent election campaign – welfare, taxation, and conditions for asylum seekers. The election also addressed growing social inequality, the government’s support of the Iraq war and the legacy of the cartoon affair in 2006. 

Knudsen describes Denmark as “more fluid” and “less predictable” than in the past, with “competing arguments about where the country is going” making its domestic politics “more fractious and more interesting”. The Danes re-elected centre-right Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen on 13 November 2007. 

Welfare was a key issue in the election, which in Denmark covers issues ranging from “the generosity of public social policies to the ‘flexicurity’ labour market model and the disposable incomes of families”, says Knudsen. 

She believes the result proves that “the centre-right had the better of the argument”. However, despite the centre-left recording “its worst [result] for a century”, party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt “performed well” and should be allowed more time, she insists. 

Before the election, it was thought that the New Alliance party led by Syrian-born Danish politician Naser Khader – who rose to prominence during the cartoons controversy and is “respected nationwide as the leading spokesperson for peaceful coexistence” between Muslims and the Danish way of life – would be “kingmaker”, holding the balance of power. 

However, Khader was hampered by “losing his temper in important televised debates” over Denmark’s policy towards asylum seekers, which sees them interned or confined to asylum centres for long periods. In the event, the New Alliance only gained five seats and its “king-making potential had diminished greatly”. 

Knudsen concludes that the government’s lack of a secure majority will force it to “seek broad agreements with the opposition”, placing Fogh Rasmussen “in a tight position”. 

Asylum and immigration and welfare and social policies are “at the heart of a slow Danish social and economic transition”, she adds, insisting that “it is only right that a broad parliamentary majority is behind such decisions”. 

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