Bittersweet Victory for Denmark’s Right-Wing Bloc

Danish parliament Copenhagen
View of the Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish parliament, in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Denmark’s right-wing parties eked out a one-seat majority in Thursday’s election, forcing the prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, to resign.

But the victory was bittersweet for liberal party leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen. His Venstre lost thirteen seats and was beaten into third place by the nationalist Danish People’s Party, which won 37 seats with 21 percent of the votes. Read more “Bittersweet Victory for Denmark’s Right-Wing Bloc”

Islanders Kingmakers in Danish Parliament

Danish parliament Copenhagen
Windows of the Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish parliament, in Copenhagen (iStock/Carsten Brandt)

Exit polls showed Denmark’s left- and right-wing blocs tied on Thursday night and suggested that deputies from the Faroe Islands and Greenland could be kingmakers in the Nordic country’s next parliament.

The poll, shown on TV2, gave Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s coalition 87 seats against 88 for the right-wing opposition.

Such an outcome would hand the balance of power in Denmark’s 179-seat unicameral Folketing to the four representatives of the autonomous Faroe Islands and Greenland. The latter have traditionally aligned with the left while the Faroese tend to split their two seats between the blocs. Read more “Islanders Kingmakers in Danish Parliament”

Denmark’s Left-Wing Coalition Could Stay in Power

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

When Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt called early elections last month, her left-wing coalition looked almost certain to lose power. Now promising growth forecasts and persistent doubts about the opposition leader’s credibility have given her a chance at reelection.

Polls released earlier this week put the prime minister’s Social Democrats and their supporters ahead of the right-wing bloc for the first time since 2011.

At their worst point, the ruling center-left coalition trailed the right by 17 percentage points. Now it is slightly ahead or at least neck and neck. Read more “Denmark’s Left-Wing Coalition Could Stay in Power”

Social Democrats Likely to Lose Election in Denmark

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

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.” Read more “Social Democrats Likely to Lose Election in Denmark”

Shooting at Copenhagen Free Speech Meeting, One Killed

One person was killed and three police officers wounded in a shooting in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, on Saturday at a meeting attended by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks.

Vilks, who was unharmed, stirred controversy in 2007 when he published drawings that depicted the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a dog. He has received numerous death threats and lived under constant protection since 2010.

Danish police said they thought the suspect might have fled by train. A car the shooter first used to flee the crime scene was found abandoned.

Police also said the injuries their three officers sustained were not critical. Read more “Shooting at Copenhagen Free Speech Meeting, One Killed”

Danish Energy Sale to Goldman Sachs Meets Resistance

Years of conservative rule ended in Denmark with the 2011 election of Social Democratic Party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt, whose coalition also included the Social Liberal Party and Socialist People’s Party. Two years later, the Socialist People’s Party left the coalition over the decision to sell 18 percent of DONG Energy, the nation’s largest energy company, to investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Finance minister Bjarne Corydon backed the decision, arguing that the move makes green energy a financially sustainable option, while former Social Democrat premier Poul Nyrup Rasmussen opposed the sale, calling Goldman a “shady partner.”

Protesters threw the image of a vampire squid over the statue of a former king, a nod to Matt Taibbi’s remark in Rolling Stone magazine that Goldman was a “great vampire squid” feeding on cash instead of blood. Read more “Danish Energy Sale to Goldman Sachs Meets Resistance”

After Juncker’s Nomination, Nordic Premiers Loom as Council President

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen of Finland arrives for a European People's Party summit in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2013
Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen of Finland arrives for a European People’s Party summit in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2013 (EPP)

European leaders on Friday pushed through Jean-Claude Juncker’s nomination to head the next European Commission while the prime ministers of Denmark and Finland looked likely candidates to chair their own council.

Juncker’s nomination, which is almost certain to be approved by the European Parliament, came over the strong objections of Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán, who fear the former premier of Luxembourg will advocate deeper political integration in the European Union as the head of its executive arm at the expense of expanding the single market, liberating trade with nations outside Europe and giving member states the flexibility to opt out of specific policies.

Juncker, who previously also chaired the council of eurozone finance ministers, had claimed the commission presidency after his European People’s Party won a plurality of the seats in the European Parliament in last month’s elections.

His appointment confirms the views of British Euroskeptics who believe the European Union is beyond reform and the island nation would be better off outside the bloc.

Cameron has promised his voters a referendum on Britain’s future in the European Union, pending an effort to adjust the conditions of its membership. After Friday’s decision, he admitted, “The job has got harder of keeping Britain in a reformed EU.”

He implicitly criticized other leaders, saying that in a Europe crying out for reform, they had gone for a “career Brussels insider.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel, otherwise keen to keep liberal Britain involved in the European Union as a counterweight to more protectionist economies in the Mediterranean, told reporters, “I believe that the conclusions that we agreed showed we are ready to take British concerns seriously. The entire strategic agenda reflects Britain’s desire, which I share, for a modern, open, efficient European Union.”

However, as recently as Wednesday, Merkel signaled that she was prepared to give France and Italy more “flexibility” to meet their budget targets under European treaty rules. The two countries, ruled by leftist parties, had conditioned their support for Juncker on less austerity.

Individual commissioners are yet to be nominated. Britain can be expected to claim a powerful post given its failure to block Juncker.

The presidency of the European Council — the regular meeting of government leaders — will also soon be vacant. The prime ministers of Denmark and Finland, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Jyrki Katainen, are believed to be candidates to replace Herman Van Rompuy.

Katainen, a conservative, has already succeeded Olli Rehn as commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs — a position he is expected to keep unless he could become European Council president.

Thorning-Schmidt, a Social Democrat, is a more likely candidate. The socialists in the European Parliament are assumed to demand the European Council presidency in return for supporting Juncker. However, the Danish leader herself insisted on Thursday she was “not a candidate.”

The new European Commission is due to take office in October.

Danish Nationalists Reject Alliance with Dutch, French

Denmark’s nationalists dealt a blow to the hopes of similar parties in France and the Netherlands to form an alliance in the European Parliament on Wednesday when one of its lawmakers ruled out any cooperation with Marine Le Pen’s Front national.

Søren Espersen, the Danish People’s Party deputy leader and foreign policy spokesman, told Politiken newspaper that Le Pen’s was not a “decent” party, referring to its history of antisemitism. Marine’s father, Jean-Marie, who founded and long led the Front, made several antisemitic remarks throughout his political career. Read more “Danish Nationalists Reject Alliance with Dutch, French”