Denmark will go to the polls on Tuesday, November 1st. early general election called seven months early.
Here’s everything you need to know about Danish politics, parties, personalities and the issues at stake during the Scandinavian nation’s vote:
How did we get here?
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has led a minority social democratic government since June 2019, but her popularity has plummeted over the past few months due to her role in the pandemic-era decision to wipe out Denmark’s entire captive mink population.
Commission appointed by Parliament sharply criticized The Frederiksen government for its decision to order the destruction of millions of healthy minks in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in order to protect people from the virus mutating.
This led to one of the government’s centre-left allies, the Social Liberal Party, threatening a vote of confidence unless Frederiksen promised to call an early election.
How are elections in Denmark?
On November 1, 179 seats in the Danish parliament, or Folketing, are up for grabs, including two representatives each from Greenland and the Faroe Islands (voting in the Faroe Islands will take place on October 31 in connection with the local public holiday on November 1). .
In fact, by the time you are reading this article, voting in the elections has already begun, as early votes can be cast up to three weeks before November 1st at city halls across the country. It’s for people who can’t vote on election day, but is also available to people in nursing homes, incarcerated in prisons, and in some Danish embassies abroad.
For example, these Danish soldiers in the NATO mission in Estonia voted in mid-November:
The overall voter turnout in Denmark is usually high, and it is not surprising if the turnout exceeds 80%. However, special efforts are being made to involve first-time voters, young people and new citizens, in the process.
Each election cycle, Parliament sends out constitution booklet and the voting process and includes a funny cartoon on the envelope, which seems to have a positive effect.
“Research has shown that cartooning has a positive effect on first-time voter turnout,” the Folketinget website says.
“Therefore, broadcasting the cartoon, along with the booklet ‘My Constitution’, is now a regular part of the Danish Parliament’s tool to purposefully build democratic self-confidence and youth participation.”
The voting system in Denmark is no more complicated than in other Scandinavian countries (although they are all different!): most seats in parliament are elected by direct proportional representation from ten constituencies, but 40 seats are used to “rebalance” those seats in the constituency – and parties must receive at least 2% of the vote at the national level – in order to generally guarantee themselves a seat in parliament.
In the voting booth, voters can vote in person for an individual candidate or vote for their favorite political party; while some constituencies use the “party list” variant, which means you vote for a particular party and it has already decided who its top candidates are.
What are the main parties?
Danish parties are usually divided into a left bloc and a right bloc, but there are currently 17 different parties in parliamentand half a dozen deputies who are not members of the party composition. The largest party has 48 seats, while the four smallest parties have one seat each.
Many parties, both left and right, can seem – at least not to Danes – quite close to each other in terms of political ideology. For example, there are two different “green” parties: the “Alternative” and the “Independent Greens”; while the Red-Green and Green-Left parties are not at all specifically ecological (as their name might suggest), but left-wing parties.
The four oldest parties are the Conservative People’s Party, the Social Democrats, the Social Liberal Party and the Venstres (oddly enough: løves means “left” in Danish, but it’s a right wing liberal conservative party…) and many new parties in recent years attract young viewers.
We won’t see any one party win a majority of seats, Danish politics just aren’t set up that way, but there will likely be a need for coalition alliances, although Mette Frederiksen led a minority government with no formal coalition partners, relying instead on an agreement about trust and deliveries with other parties on the left.
“Danish politics in general is a very coherent affair, most of the laws are passed by supermajorities or by parties from other blocs,” said Rune Stubager, a political scientist at Aarhus University in Denmark.
“We have a culture of negotiation and broad agreements. It’s already there and people love it. They think reason should prevail, the parties will come together and do what is best for our society,” he told Euronews.
However, Stubager warns that “the devil is in the details” and it will still take a lot of negotiation between any potential political partners to come up with a set of policies that they can all agree on and who in the coalition will get which ministerial post. role, or the highest post of prime minister.
Key policy themes
There is one topic that overwhelms almost every other topic that politicians want to talk about, and that is immigration.
Major parties on the left and right support the plan transfer the asylum process in Denmark to Rwandaa policy that drew protest from human rights groups and civil society.
But is shelter the most important issue in the minds of voters?
At the start of the campaign, the Danish television channel TV2 asked members of the public to choose the two topics that were most important to them:
On a number of other topics, such as education, traffic and transport, social policy, animal welfare, employment and gender equality, the poll is below 10%.
“There is nothing surprising. When you ask these questions in most countries, it shows realism on the part of the voters. There are debates, but at the end of the day, people are most concerned about things that directly affect their lives,” he said. Ditte Brasso SorensenSenior Researcher Think Tank Europe in Copenhagen.
“Ten years ago, immigration would have been higher and the environment lower. But something has happened in Danish politics where immigration is just not as prominent in the minds of voters as it used to be and the climate has taken its place where voters want to show their attitude towards values,” she told Euronews.
Sorensen explained that there is still a segment of the voters for whom immigration is an important topic – certainly more important than the environment or foreign affairs – and these are the voters for whom Mette Frederiksen and leaders of other major parties are seeking votes.
What is not being discussed?
One of the biggest areas where there is still almost no campaign discussion so far is the European Union: whether it’s reform, Denmark’s withdrawal, or working together on energy prices. And in a TV2 survey, only 3% of respondents said that the EU was an important topic for them.
“This is not discussed at all and is not even in the public eye! There is absolutely no Europe in the campaign, except for the war in Ukraine and the indirect agenda regarding the participation of European countries,” she told Euronews.
Regarding Denmark’s three remaining EU opt-outs, the defense opt-out was canceled in June referendum – Professor Wind said that some parties usually declare in their manifestos that they want to get rid of the rejection, but this does not become a topic for campaign discussion.
“The only reason politicians sometimes discuss Europe is because there is some criticism of the EU. That’s all. But it is also a media issue. Danish journalists have absolutely no interest in Europe.
“Those who are dominant in the media, forming public opinion, they don’t give a damn. It’s not even in their notebooks.”
When can we expect any results?
Initial estimates should come out shortly after the polls close on the evening of Nov. 1, but the actual process takes a little longer than that when you think about local vote counts in an area the size of Greenland.
“We expect the first preliminary results to be announced a few hours after midnight on election day, but the official results will not be known until a day or two after the election,” Waldemar Helms Kleve, from the Danish interior ministry, told Euronews.
After that, the hard work begins to see if any of the larger parties can garner enough parliamentary seats through alliances with other parties to form a viable government, which, as we have seen in other parts of Europe, can take anywhere from a few days to several months.