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Danes vote in knife-edge election

November 2, 2022 12:46 AM


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Danes voted Tuesday in a knife-edge election with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen fighting for political survival against the right and far-right in polls that could turn a moderate ex-premier into a kingmaker.

The election was triggered by the "mink crisis" that has embroiled Denmark since the government decided in November 2020 to cull the country's roughly 15 million minks over fears of a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus.

The decision turned out to be illegal, however, and a party propping up Frederiksen's minority Social Democrats government threatened to topple it unless she called elections to regain the confidence of voters.

After a campaign dominated by climate concerns, inflation and healthcare, almost a quarter of voters were still undecided heading into election day, according to polls.

Grey skies covered the capital as voting took place with polling stations scheduled to close at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) and the first results expected around 9:30 pm.

By around 2:00 pm, about 40 percent of voters had cast their ballots in the country of 5.9 million people, according to Danish news agency Ritzau.

"Climate issues and psychiatry (mental health issues), but mostly climate, are the reasons behind my vote," 46-year-old Lone Kiitgaard told AFP after casting her ballot in central Copenhagen, without disclosing who she voted for.

The latest poll by Voxmeter gave the left-wing "red bloc", led by Frederiksen's Social Democrats, 49.1 percent against 42.4 percent for the "blues", an informal liberal and conservative alliance, supported by three populist parties.

"This election could be really close and there is a risk that there will be a blue government after today," Frederiksen admitted, but stressed she was "very optimistic" after voting at a badminton centre turned polling station northwest of Copenhagen.

Nikolaj Sommer, editor of Danish business daily Borsen, told AFP he made his choice after studying the parties' economic programmes.

"That we are not actually stimulating inflation in Denmark, I think that's a very important thing for me. And of course the Danish welfare system and how we're going to run it in the long run," the 47-year-old journalist said.

'Better to be a joker'

With neither bloc set to win an outright majority, governing will likely depend on support from the Moderates, a centrist party founded only this year by two-time prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

"That's the most interesting part. If there is no majority, as seems to be the case, the Moderates are required to form a government," Rune Stubager, a political science professor at Aarhus University, told AFP.

Both the left and the right have made repeated appeals to Lokke Rasmussen, who has campaigned on reforming the healthcare system.

Frederiksen has floated the idea of a coalition government, led by herself, and has said she is willing to discuss healthcare reforms.

Liberal Party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, her main challenger on the right, has called for Lokke Rasmussen to align with his former colleagues on the right.

"We will... do our outmost to be the bridge, that's the whole idea behind this," Lokke Rasmussen told AFP after casting his ballot in central Copenhagen.

Only two months ago, the party polled at around two percent but has now soared to between 9.3 to 10 percent support.

Lokke Rasmussen, who said "it's better to be a joker than a joke", does not envision becoming prime minister a third time, despite being a potential kingmaker.

"That's not in my mind," he said.

Protective of the prosperity and social cohesion of the Nordic welfare state, Denmark championed ever stricter migration policies for over 20 years.

Climate concerns

Advocating a "zero refugee" policy, the Social Democrats government is working on setting up a centre to house asylum seekers in Rwanda while their applications are processed.

As most parties back the restrictive policies the issue is rarely up for debate.

Climate, on the other hand, is of great concern to Danes.

On Sunday, some 50,000 people, including the prime minister, gathered for the "People's Climate March" in Copenhagen.

But while there is widespread agreement on some issues, Denmark's political landscape is splintered with a total of 14 parties vying for the 179 seats in parliament.

Four seats are reserved for the overseas autonomous territories: Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Voter turnout is traditionally high in Denmark. In the 2019 election, 84.6 percent of some 4.2 million eligible voters cast a ballot.

 

 



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