Danish elections

by niamh on September 14, 2011

Denmark goes to the polls tomorrow, Thursday 14th. For those who incline to the view that elections don’t matter, this one may be particularly interesting, since the centre-left group of parties looks very likely to win. This will not only put the current right-wing government out of power, but will marginalize the far-right Danish People’s Party. The DPP has pulled the framework of debate well to the right in recent years on immigration, rights, welfare, because it’s been pivotal to government-making initiatives since the early 2000s. This time, the Social Democrats have managed to focus debate on economic issues:

Thorning-Schmidt has promised a new era of public investment in welfare, education and infrastructure. The government is preaching austerity and public spending cuts, the general trend across a Europe dominated by the centre-right.

Discourse really matters!

On a completely irrelevant note, but one that I find mildly interesting nonetheless, SD leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who’s been SD leader since 2005, is married to a son of Neil Kinnock.



Guan Yang 09.14.11 at 6:09 pm

Thursday the 15th.


Berian James 09.14.11 at 6:41 pm

The election is on Thursday the 15th. Less trivially, while the Social Democrats are the largest party in the left grouping, both they and their closest allies, the Socialist People’s Party, look likely to lose a number of seats, so that the tone of the resulting coalition will be influenced more heavily than before by two other insurgent left-wing partners: the ‘Radical Left’, who are (of course) a centrist party, and the Red-Green Alliance, who would be considered quite far to the left by most readers of this blog.

The opinion polling agglomerator in the Danish daily Politiken presents this well, but readers will need to bone up on their Danish political party letter allocations. Readers hoping to understand the direction in which Danish politics is heading might do well to leaven the Guardian article with some reading about the parties who will be gaining the most seats tomorrow.


Jacob Christensen 09.14.11 at 8:33 pm

Actually, Berlingske Barometer http://www.b.dk/berlingskebarometer is better as it makes a weighed average.

While it is true that the literal translation of Radikale Venstre is “the Radical Left” (they took the name from the French Parti Radical), the party prefers to be known as “The Social Liberal Party” in English.

The problems faced by the Danish Social Democrats are well worth noting. Like its Nordic counterparts, the SocDems have lost important parts of their traditional constituency and finds it hard to attract voters. 25% would be a historically bad outcome for the party.


stostosto 09.14.11 at 9:13 pm

It’s really exciting. Ten years of center-right supported by xenophobic DPP is hopefully coming to an end. But it’s a pity that Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the PM in a likely new government, doesn’t seem to inspire much enthusiasm as reflected in her party’s disappointing standing in the polls on election eve. As Jacob says, if the polls come true, the social democrats will have their worst result in about 100 years. This, I am convinced, signifies a deeper shift in Danish society and politics. Unfortunately not for the better imho.


Vasi 09.14.11 at 9:27 pm

Would anyone care to explain the differences between Venstre and the Conservative People’s Party? I can’t seem to find any good references in a language that I read.


Paddy Matthews 09.14.11 at 10:18 pm

From a Danish poster on Dave Leip’s Atlas forum:

Q: What differentiates Venstre from the Conservatives? Is it simply history or are there policy/appeal differences between them?

A: Primary history and voter segment. The Conservatives tend to be slightly more nationalist, pro-environment and pro-big state, beside the Conservative are much more urban, while Venstre tend to be rural. But any policy one adopt the other can adopt too.


stostosto 09.14.11 at 10:34 pm

@Vasi: The Conservatives identify with Edmund Burke, Venstre identify with Adam Smith. Roughly. (Insofar as their high brow chief ideologists are concerned – most other party faithfuls don’t give it much thought). Historically, the Conservatives are descended from landlords and industrialists, whereas Venstre have their roots in the class of independent farmers and their popular movements. Nowadays these social groupings are largely irrelevant electorally, and they’re both best characterised as centre-right with detergent marketing positioning differentiations.


between4walls 09.15.11 at 12:16 am

This chart puts the Red-Green alliance as pro-immigration but anti-EU. That seems unusual; can anyone explain that a bit more?


StevenAttewell 09.15.11 at 2:30 am

Because the ECB is incredibly conservative?


Thomas Jørgensen 09.15.11 at 4:08 am

If only it was that well thought out. Its a vote pandering stance – There is an incredibly broad overall pro-uniou view from all the more mainstream parties, while the electorate is split nearly fifty-fifty on it, so the fringe parties make hay on being the parties of “screw the union” on election day and are then completely ignored when it comes to any actual legislation that relates because all of it gets passed by humongous majorities pretty much regardless of who is in government.


Meredith 09.15.11 at 4:59 am

“Discourse really matters!”
Sad that this should need be said, but it does need be said.
Today a faculty colleague (I won’t bore with details) suggested we (at a privileged institution, but with our own legitimate gripes within our own small world) call ourselves “workers,” just to make a (not trivial) point. I heard her, but. We, workers? In what world? Discourse shifts — they’re the thing you can’t predict, control, have any sure idea where they’ll go.


Vasi 09.15.11 at 9:02 am

Thanks Paddy & stostosto. I had no idea Dave Leip’s site had a forum for international elections, I’m sure I’ll find that useful in the future.


Jacob Christensen 09.15.11 at 10:52 am

@Between4walls: Until the 1990s the left was squarely against the EC/EU (Capitalist conspiracy) and the centre-right pro-EC/EU. It is only from the late 1990s that the Danish People’s Party has adopted a Tory-style Euroscepticism.

The same goes for Sweden, incidentally: The Left Party is anti-EU and the Social Democrats split. The Sweden Democrats are nationalist anti-EU.


Del Cotter 09.15.11 at 10:57 am

I don’t think it’s irrelevant that the political class are all each other’s relatives.


Alex 09.15.11 at 2:55 pm

Surely the real question is which of them killed Nanna Birk Larsen?


Pub Editor 09.15.11 at 3:46 pm

If the SD coalition wins, this could be the first time since 1993 that the Prime Minister of Denmark was not named Rasmussen.


Natilo Paennim 09.15.11 at 9:10 pm

Extraordinarily trivially, one of A.F. Rasmussen’s children married some distant cousin of mine not too long ago.

Overall, this seems like hopeful news, especially if it will loosen up immigration restrictions, and I can fulfill my dream of becoming a union janitor at the University of Copenhagen. Still, as an anarchist, I have to protest that it’s unlikely that a probable new coalition will make any really deep structural changes.


stostosto 09.15.11 at 11:33 pm

Whoop-de-doop! Time for partying. Hangovers in due time.


between4walls 09.16.11 at 12:36 am

@10, 13
Thanks for the explanations!


jb 09.17.11 at 5:43 am

@Vasi 09.14.11 at 9:27 pm
Would anyone care to explain the differences between Venstre and the Conservative People’s Party?

“A liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested”
Tom Wolfe: The Bonfire of the Vanities, ch. 24 p.617.

Believe this applies to danish politics as well.


stostosto 09.18.11 at 12:31 pm

Can’t seem to take my thoughts off of this election with its one huge positive result (Danish People’s Party will no longer be part of the government’s parliamentary majority, i. e. reduced to irrelevance, thank all poweres that be!) and its significant sour notes (worst result for the social democrats since 1905!) People clearly wanted a new government – natural after ten years and a savage economic crisis – but they quite emphatically rejected the actual agenda of the two leading opposition parties, opting instead for their allies to their left and right. The left-allies are classic left-wing socialists, some say unreconstructed revolutionaries and communists. The right-allies on the whole are much more aligned with right-wing parties in the parliament, apart from the DPP to whom they are the main enemy on the wedge issue of foreigners.

Huge differences must be resolved by negotiations led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who, in spite of becoming our first female PM, and the youngest PM in 60 years, have thoroughly failed to inspire the enthusiasm that one might have expected, and which might have given her a much-needed personal boost – cf. the 1905 statistic, but also the fact that she lost more than a quarter of her personal vote compared to 2007. (Under Danish electoral rules you can cast your vote for a party or for any candidate that a party is running in your district – so it was only in parts of Copenhagen that voters could actually vote for HTS personally).

I could go on, but I am uncertain as to how relevant people here think Danish politics really is in the scheme of things.


Glen Tomkins 09.20.11 at 4:42 am

Unless you’re going to tell me that there’s a Danish Rick Perry out there, anybody else’s politics is such a relief compared to ours in the US. Keep talking about normal, sane politics. Maybe we’ll pick up the tune, even if the lyrics escape us.

Even if that were not the case, nihil humanum alienum mihi essere puto. If there is a Danish Rick Perry, how did you defeat the beast? We need some quick lessons.


between4walls 09.20.11 at 5:55 am

@Glen Tomkins- I don’t know about Rick Perry, but I’ll let the aforementioned DPP speak speak for themselves….
“Espersen wears jeans and a polo shirt and has the appearance of a man who might coach soccer. An former journalist who became a DPP “spin doctor,” he speaks easily and casually. He disagrees with the “clash of civilizations” theory made popular by Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis that was often cited by Breivik. “That suggests Muslims have a civilization,” he says.”
There’s also this.
American politics may be exuberantly irrational and economically illiterate, but never fear, the European xenophobic parties can be counted on to rise to the occasion and ascend to new heights of belligerent idiocy!

(Sorry for the bitter tone, especially when Denmark has just got rid of the DPP-supported government. It’s not directed at you.)


stostosto 09.20.11 at 6:49 pm

@b4w: Espersen is a scarily effective communicator, possibly because he firmly believes in what hes says. So good to have him and his party parked on the sideline.

@Glen: I don’t know the first thing about Rick Perry. And if he’s the Tea Party favourite, I hope I won’t need to. And, yes, I do think Danish politics is on the whole a lot saner than American politics is. I don’t really have any illusions about this though. It’s more a function of us being a small country where people all but know each other personally, including the politicians, or at least they know someon who knows one. I would assume that state level politics in the U. S. is less crazy than on the federal level. For instance, how is politics in, say, Tennessee? Mitt Romney even launched Obamacare in Massachusetts before anyone knew who Obama was.

(Gah, I just came to think of Wisconsin…)

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