1. During EU parliament elections the whole country is seen as one electoral district, i.e. people can vote for the same candidates all over the country. One can either vote for a party or list or cast a personal preference vote for a particular candidate. Denmark sends 13 MEPS to the European Parliament, so a candidate requires 7-8% of the vote to win a seat. Because of this, a quite high barring clause for electoral alliances is permitted.
At these elections there were two such alliances:
- one between the Social Democrats, the Socialist People’s Party, and the Social Liberals (This alliance secured the Social Liberals their seat), and
- one between the Liberal Party and the Conservatives.
2. The turn-out this time was 56.3%, 3.2 percentage points down from 2009, but still very respectable compared to the EU-average of 40%.
3. The final results compared to 2009 were:
O: Danish People’s Party: 26,6% (15,3%), 4 seats (2, EFD)
A: The Social Democrats: 19,1% (21,5%), 3 seats (4, S&D)
V: The Liberal Party: 16,7% (20,2%), 2 seats (3, ALDE)
F: The Socialist People´s Party (Greens/EFA): 10,9% (15,4%), 1 seat (2)
C: The Conservatives: 9,2% (12,7%), 1 seat (1, EPP)
N: The People’s Movement against EU: 8,1% (7,2%), 1 seat (1, GUE/NGL)
B: The Social Liberals: 6,5% (4,35), 1 seat (0)
The right wing Liberal Alliance received only 3% of the vote and was not represented.
4. The most remarkable feature of these elections is undoubtedly the landslide victory achieved by the Danish People’s Party (DF). Like the UKIP and the Front National, this populist EU-sceptical party managed to become the biggest party at a national election.
The DF managed very skilfully to capitalize on the growing unease with the phenomenon of social dumping and the presence in Denmark of a considerable number of migrant workers, particularly from Eastern Europe. Within this context, it is important to mention the party’s leading candidate, Mr Morten Messerschmidt. He is a young, charismatic and very gifted politician who has given the DF a touch of respectability. He has very skilfully succeeded in articulating the concerns of many working class voters, who would usually support the Social democrats or other mainstream parties. He alone received a record number of 465,000 personal preference votes, i.e. about 80% of all votes cast for the party and more than 20% of all votes in the election.
5. Before turning to the results of the Left and the main themes of the elections, I would like to comment on some other features of the elections.
Like most other parties, the Social Democrats did not field any very high-profile candidates, and they were not able to counter the offensive of the Danish People’s Party in a way that would keep social democrat voters from voting for Mr Messerschmidt. Still, the sentiment in the party is that things could have been worse – it is still the second largest party, its losses were relatively limited considering the general unpopularity of the present centre-left government, and the forth seat it won in 2009 was very marginal.
The Liberal Party, however, suffered a resounding defeat. This defeat is mainly due to a number of affairs concerning the extravagant habits of its leader, the former Prime Minister Mr Lars Løkke Rasmussen. The latest of these affairs hit headlines just before election day, and liberal voters clearly punished the party by staying at home or voting for other parties.
The defeat has thrown the party into a deep crisis, and the leadership of Mr Rasmussen is being questioned. This crisis is the most important immediate political fall-out of the elections: it casts doubt on the ability of the centre-right opposition to get their act together before the upcoming parliamentary elections in Denmark, and gives new hope for the embattled incumbent government.
6. While the populist right triumphed beyond expectations, the results for the Left were not so bad.
The Socialist People’s Party (SF) lost about a third of its votes from 2009 and one seat. This may seem like a resounding defeat, but a comparison with 2009 is not really relevant.
In 2009 the party was experiencing an unprecedented peak in its popularity which it has not been able to sustain. In 2011 the SF joined the centre-left government coalition with the Social Democrats and the Social Liberals, and thus became part of government for the first time in its more than fifty-year-long history. Participation in an unpopular government with a long series of concessions, especially to the Social Liberals, threatened to obliterate the progressive identity of the party and caused growing resentment among party members. This resentment came to a head at the beginning of this year when a revolt from party members forced SF to leave the government and to elect a new party leadership, the second within a year.
This profound crisis brought the party to the verge of collapse, but it seems that the new party leadership has managed to stabilize the party, giving it a clearer profile outside the government.
At the beginning of the election campaign it seemed very doubtful that the SF would be represented in the EU Parliament at all, so a vote of almost 11% is a remarkable recovery and it must give cause for optimism within the party.
The party is a member of the Green group in the EP, and it is consistently pro-EU but with a green and progressive reformist touch. Its leading candidate and long-time MEP, Mrs Margrethe Auken, has been presented in the election campaign as a progressive watchdog in the EP, guarding against the neo-liberal policies of the EU, and this has clearly had some resonance with quite a few progressive voters who, under no circumstances, want to be identified with the populism of the DF. Mrs Auken had a very good personal score winning 153,000 personal preference votes – the third largest number.
At its annual conference the Red-Green Alliance decided not to field its own list at the EP elections but to recommend its voters to support the People’s Movement against the EU (FB), as we had done at previous elections. The decision was made after a membership vote with a narrow majority in favour of supporting the FB. The issue had caused a heated debate, and the outcome of the discussion left a substantial minority that was dissatisfied and not particularly motivated to support the FB.
But the RGA had featured very prominently in the FB and in the campaign. 7 of the 20 candidates on the FB list are members of the RGA, 3 of them are among the top 4.
The leading candidate and new MEP is Rina Ronja Kari, a young woman. She has replaced the political veteran and prominent member of the RGA Søren Søndergaard, who served as an MEP from 2007-2014.
In spite of her relative inexperience, Rina has managed to make her mark on the election campaign, together with the other RGA candidates. It has been of great importance for the RGA to present a progressive and EU-sceptical alternative to the Danish People’s Party and, in spite of relatively bad odds at the outset of the campaign, the FB stood its ground and consolidated its seat. The FB has been associated with the GUE/NGL and it will continue to be so.
Within the RGA we will now have to evaluate the outcome of the election and discuss whether we will stick to our present position supporting the FB, or whether we should envisage fielding our own list of candidates at the 2019 elections.
7. Some general comments
As indicated above, the main (and dominating) theme of the election campaign was the question of social dumping and the transfer of welfare benefits to other countries. These are themes that lie at the core of the Nordic labour market and social model. The DF managed to profit from this agenda with its slightly veiled xenophobia, this time directed towards Eastern Europeans and not against immigrants from the South.
This obviously struck a chord with a substantial number of voters, and these are questions that no party will be able to ignore.
It is essential that the Left is able to combine a defence of the Nordic model with an internationalist attitude that shows solidarity with migrant workers while attacking the employers, especially those in the construction, agriculture and service sectors, who profit greatly from hiring underpaid workers who must endure lamentable working conditions.
Andreas Nissen, Red Green Alliance
Find the article by Inger Johansen on the pre-election situation in Denmark: Social dumping takes centre stage as the Eurosceptics look to gain power
IN POWER: SD (centre-left)
Radical left party in the EP: 1 seat of 13
The Red-Green Alliance (RGA) has been founded in 1989, it was an alliance between the Communist Party of Denmark and two Trotskyist organisations. The plan was to form one big party together with the Greens. A Danish particularity is the fact that RGA has never run for European elections as such, but was part of a larger group: the People’s Movement Against the EU. The alliance has gained support ever since the beginning of the crisis in 2008. It has reached 6.7% of the vote in the 2011 general elections.