Center-right ousts Social Democrats in Denmark after surge by anti-immigration party

The Social Democrat led government of Denmark fell in yesterday’s parliamentary elections, as a four party center-right grouping scored a narrow majority.  Outgoing Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt  has resigned as leader of her party, taking the blame for their loss.  The big winner in the election was the eurosceptic and anti-immigration Danish Peoples Party (DPP) which emerged as the largest party on the center right, its best showing in its twenty year history. Overall, the blue bloc of the center-right won 51.6% of the vote, or 52.4% if the Christian Democrats, which failed to win a seat but support the bloc are included, compared with 47.5% of the red bloc of the left of center parties.

While there is some discussion of DPP leader Kristian Dahl leading the coalition, it is generally believed that the more likely Prime Minister will be the leader of liberal Venstre Party, Lars Rasmussen.  Dahl has even suggested his party may prefer to support a coalition from the outside rather than joining the government.

The dramatic surge of the DPP, which gained 15 seats, rising from 22 to 37 seats in parliament, and increasing its vote share from 12.3% to 21.2%, was what powered the blue bloc to victory. Of the other three parties in the bloc, only the free market oriented Liberal Alliance,Denmark’s newest party which was organized in 2007, gained seats, rising from 9 to 13, with an increase in its vote share from 5.0% to 7.5%.  The two century-old parties in the bloc, Venstre and the Conservative Peoples Party both lost seats.  Venstre, which went into the election with 47 seats, emerged with only 34, and its vote share dropped from 26.7% to 19.5%.  Overall, the blue bloc had a net gain of four seats.

Although Denmark already has some of the toughest immigration laws in the EU, a legacy of a previous center-right government, strong public interest in the issue led parties in both blocs to pledge further curbs on immigration.  The DPP also highlighted the need to change the EU treaty, and got an agreement from all parties in the blue bloc to generally support UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts in that area.  Venstre and its leader, Rasmussen, are the most lukewarm of the bloc parties toward EU changes.