Danish General Election
February 26, 2005 13:55 | by Aage Skovrind
The recent Danish general election may have seen the right wing government win a new term of office, but Denmark's real left did well.
The Danish general elections on February 8th have left the country even more polarized, with two clear-cut blocks in the parliament. The far left Red-Green Alliance has consolidated itself as a stable force in Danish politics. The main challenge is now to convert the electoral progress to a strong movement against the right wing government that creates poverty, war and xenophobia.
Despite a loss of four seats in Parliament, the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is looking forward to a new government period after the general elections. The Conservative coalition partner gained two seats, and the far right, anti-immigration Danish Peoples Party, offering a parliamentary majority to the government, also gained two.
The major changes took place inside the opposition bloc. Losing five seats, the Social Democrats did not recover from their historical defeat of 2001 when the party lost not only the government but also the century-long position as the biggest political party. During the electoral campaign, marked by a personal media competition between the two prime ministerial candidates, Mogens Lykketoft of the Social Democrats was not able to present a credible alternative, neither on a personal nor a political level.
Both candidates promised more or less the same improvement of welfare services such as health care, elder care, lower prices for child care, more spending on education and research etc. The Liberal Fogh Rasmussen argued that the "tax stop" (which primarily favoured those on high incomes and owners of big estates) introduced by the government after the 2001 elections would continue. Rasmussen argued further that only the right wing government would be able to maintain the harsh immigration policies, which it had tightened. The restrictive immigration policy has caused international criticism of the right wing government, but the Social Democratic challenger declared he would not loosen it. The weakest point for the government was the rising unemployment rate since it came into power in 2001.
Although Lykketoft presented a job creation plan, and was gifted a new argument when a slaughterhouse was closed and 450 workers sacked at the beginning of the campaign, he failed to stand as a firm opposition. After all, the privatization and austerity policies of the bourgeois government are a continuation of those of the preceding Social Democratic government. Likewise, the party has supported employment of Danish troops in Iraq and joined a national agreement to recommend the new European Constitution.
The big winners of the opposition were the Social Liberals or Radicals, increasing the number of their seats from 9 to 17. Unlike the Social Democrats, the party strongly opposes the anti-immigration policy of the bourgeois government. Due to an image as the "responsible, humanitarian and fair-minded alternative", the Social Radicals have grown increasingly popular among students and well-educated city habitants. Their anti-union, pro-austerity and anti-social tax policies are less exposed. In some traditional worker constituencies of Copenhagen, they became the biggest party.
On the left, the reformist Socialist Peoples Party had another bad result and lost one seat. Party leader during the last 14 years, Holger K. Nielsen, resigned the day after the elections.
The far left Red-Green Alliance had its best result ever since the foundation of the party in 1989. With 3.4 % of the votes, the party increased the number of its seats from four to six.
Several factors may explain the good result. Among them are the general right wing turn of the Socialist Peoples Party, in particular its recommendation of the European Constitution (36 percent of the members voted against in a party referendum), an outstanding media performance by the young MP Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil (labelled by the media as the "election princess"), big support among first-time voters (the Alliance was one of the biggest parties in several high school elections), and a clear opposition to the Danish involvement in the occupation of Iraq.
"The gains of the party were one of three goals that we set for the campaign", says MP Line Barfod.
"However", she adds, "in changing the political balance towards the left and to increase the opposition against the war, we made only a little progress. And in overturning the government, we failed completely."
However, the Red-Green Alliance managed to carry through an active and well-coordinated electoral campaign, in which almost all members have been involved. During the campaign the party gained 800 new members.
Among the approaching challenges for the party are the regional and municipal elections on November 15th, and the coming referendum on the European Constitution.
Party, number of seats (compared to 2001 elections)
Social Democracy: 47 (-5)
Social Liberals/Radicals (center party): 17 (+8)
Conservatives (part of government): 18 (+2)
Socialist Peoples Party: 11 (-1)
Christian Democrats: 0 (-4)
Danish Peoples Party (supporting the government): 24 (+2)
Liberals (part of government): 52 (-4)
Red Green Alliance (far left): 6 (+2)