Social Democrats Likely to Lose Election in Denmark

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt calls early elections even as polls show her left-wing party losing.

Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt visits the European Parliament in Brussels, July 3, 2012
Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt visits the European Parliament in Brussels, July 3, 2012 (European Parliament)

Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called early elections on Wednesday, hoping to shore up support for her left-wing coalition. Opinion polls suggest the opposition liberals, supported by the conservatives and nationalist Danish People’s Party, are more likely to come back to power next month.

Thorning-Schmidt, a Social Democrat, had until September to call elections but said on Wednesday it was the “right time” to ask voters if they wanted to stay the course.

Denmark’s first woman prime minister argued that she had led the country of 5.6 million out of an economic crisis with “solidarity.”

But in a sign that the ruling party, which now has 47 out of 179 seats in parliament, recognizes it must fend off a populist challenge from the right, the government announced €5 billion in extra welfare spending a day before Thorning-Schmidt called elections and proposed to cut benefits for immigrants who fail to find work within a month.

Polls show the Social Democrats losing four seats. Its socially liberal coalition partner, the Radikale, would go down from seventeen to ten. The Green and socialist Enhedslisten would gain but not enough to give Thorning-Schmidt a majority.

The far-left Socialist People’s Party is unlikely to win many more than the twelve seats it has now. The party withdrew from the government last year in opposition to the proposed sale of shares in DONG Energy to the American investment bank Goldman Sachs.

DONG is Denmark’s largest electricity company. The government still has 76 percent ownership.

The liberal Venstre could return to government after only four years in opposition with the support of the smaller Liberal Alliance, the Conservative People’s Party and the Danish People’s Party. The latter is predicted to go up from 22 to 33 seats, making it the third-largest party.

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