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”

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”

Finland Deploys Navy as Russian Submarine Suspected

Helsinki Finland
Sundown in Helsinki, Finland, August 9, 2008 (WomEOS)

Finland’s navy said on Tuesday it had dropped three warning charges over an unidentified object in the Nordic country’s territorial waters near the capital, Helsinki.

The incident comes six months after neighboring Sweden scrambled its maritime forces in a hunt for what was suspected to be a Russian submarine in its waters. Read more “Finland Deploys Navy as Russian Submarine Suspected”

A Tale of Two Submarines

The news of a suspected foreign submarine in Swedish waters attracted massive media coverage last year. The Swedish Navy, a shadow of its former self after more than a decade of budget cuts, launched an intelligence-gathering operation to secure evidence of the intrusion. In November, the navy presented what it considered to be concrete proof of an intrusion by a foreign submarine. This included sonar tracks and a photograph, both of which had been subjected to detailed technical analysis and were made public.

Last week, the Swedish Navy said that another suspected submarine sighting, in late October, had been dismissed after extensive investigation which found that the suspected vessel was in fact a “workboat.” This second observation was made a full week after the original intelligence-gathering operation concluded and was treated by Swedish defense as a separate event. Read more “A Tale of Two Submarines”

Finland’s Left-Right Coalition Unlikely to Survive Election

With an election less than two weeks away, Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb is turning on his left-wing coalition partners, saying governing with the Social Democrats has been a “traumatic experience.”

In an interview with the Financial Times, Stubb argued that his conservative National Coalition Party had been “bound by shackles coming from the left” and that there was no “team play” in the four-party coalition that also includes the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party.

The Greens withdrew from the government in September when the other parties approved the construction of a new nuclear power plant. Read more “Finland’s Left-Right Coalition Unlikely to Survive Election”

Sweden to Boost Defense, Remilitarize Gotland

HMS Helsingborg corvette
The Swedish Visby class corvette HMS Helsingborg docked in Stockholm, June 7, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons/Einarspetz)

Sweden will raise defense spending €680 million over the next five years and put troops back on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, its defense minister announced on Thursday.

Peter Hultqvist said increased Russian military activity in and around the Baltic Sea was forcing the Scandinavian country’s armed forces to concentrate more on border defense than international operations.

“We are making it very clear that we are shifting toward a focus of the national operations,” he said. Read more “Sweden to Boost Defense, Remilitarize Gotland”

Finland, Sweden Announce Military Pact

A Swedish navy ship off the coast of Gourock, Scotland, June 3, 2011
A Swedish navy ship off the coast of Gourock, Scotland, June 3, 2011 (Easylocum)

Alarmed by Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, Finland and Sweden announced a new military cooperation agreement on Thursday that could see the two Scandinavian countries go to war together in the event of an attack.

Although the arrangement would seem to mimic the mutual defense charter of NATO, to which neither Finland nor Sweden belongs, Stockholm’s defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, said the cooperation was not a formal alliance.

“By planning for various crisis scenarios, we create preparations to use them in a given situation,” he told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Whether or not we end up implementing these proposals is a decision that has to be made at government level in that situation and then confirmed by the parliaments in the two countries.

Hultqvist’s Finnish counterpart, Carl Haglund, similarly told the TT news agency, “This gives us a concrete ability to work together, first and foremost in peacetime but also in times of crisis should we choose to.”

New forms of cooperation may include increased communication and shared military bases.

Late last year, Finland and Sweden agreed with other Northern European countries, including neighboring Denmark and Norway, which are both members of NATO, to improve intelligence sharing and joint air force training in the face of renewed Russian threats.

Russia has played a cat-and-mouse game with its western neighbors since it occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year. The incident, which came after a row with the European Union over the bloc’s improving relations with the former Soviet republic and the overthrow of a relatively pro-Russian president in Kiev, alarmed especially Eastern European nations about Russian revanchism.

Fighter jets from Scandinavian and NATO countries have regularly intercepted Russian strategic bombers and planes approaching their airspace through last year as tensions over the standoff in Ukraine mounted.

In October, Sweden scrambled its naval forces in search of a suspected Russian submarine in its waters.

Support for joining NATO surged in the wake of the incident. A Novus poll conducted for TV4 showed 37 percent of the traditionally neutral Swedes in favor of NATO membership against 36 percent who opposed joining the alliance. Earlier in the year, only 28 percent had been in favor against 56 percent opposed.

A majority of Fins still opposes NATO membership. Prime Minister Alexander Stubb is not among them. “We have to aim at maximising Finland’s national security and being part of decisionmaking and that happens best as a NATO member,” he told the Reuters news agency shortly before taking over as premier from Jyrki Katainen in June.

Löfven Does Deal with Right, Cancels Snap Elections

Stefan Löfven
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Gothenburg, September 13 (Socialdemokraterna/Mattias Vepsä)

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven has done a deal with opposition parties to keep his government in power and stave off snap elections that were otherwise due in March.

“Sweden has a tradition of solving difficult questions,” the Social Democratic Party leader said on Sunday.

“I am happy we have reached a deal that means that Sweden can be governed.” Read more “Löfven Does Deal with Right, Cancels Snap Elections”

Löfven Calls Snap Elections After Budget Defeated

Stefan Löfven
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10 (Socialdemokraterna/Anders Löwdin)

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven has said early elections will be held in March after he failed to win the support of opposition parties for his spending plans.

Just two months into office, Löfven’s coalition with the Greens collapsed when the nationalist Sweden Democrats announced their intention to support the center-right Alliance’s budget proposal.

The Sweden Democrats won 13 percent support in September’s election and have since held the balance of power in parliament.

Löfven, the Social Democratic Party leader, made a last-ditch attempt on Tuesday to convince the Alliance to support him, but they refused.

Löfven was elected on a promise to reverse many of the economic and social policies enacted by the previous, right-wing government. Read more “Löfven Calls Snap Elections After Budget Defeated”