According to the government, there is a serious risk that a foreign power might attempt to affect the outcome of the election, which must be held no later than June 2019. On Friday, officials announced that Denmark is taking steps to combat the potential meddling.
At a press conference, Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen and Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said that an action plan has been developed that includes a number of initiatives meant to safeguard the democratic process.
Among the initiatives will be an upcoming proposal to include foreign election influence in the Danish Criminal Code. Additionally, the government said it will convene all nine of the political parties represented in parliament, members of the Danish media as well as social media representatives for official discussions on the risk of foreign influence.
The ministers said that the government is not concerned that a foreign power might attempt to hack into Denmark’s voting system, but rather that a foreign country might launch a coordinated campaign to sow divisions and influence opinions ahead of the election.
“It could be through lies or disinformation with the goal of harming the democratic process,” Frederiksen said. “The goal is to create doubts about what is true and what is false.”
The government’s action plan calls for the establishment of a task force that will operate across the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Justice Ministries to focus solely on the threat of a foreign influence campaign.
Frederiksen said the efforts are in response to Russia’s well-known interference in the US and French elections.
“We have seen how the Russians are skilled at targeting and adapting influence campaigns in order to undermine particular politicians or particular parties,” the defence minister said. “We must acknowledge that the Kremlin considers splitting the West to be in its interest.”
Samuelsen also pointed to attempted interference in Sunday’s election in neighbouring Sweden, where officials have reported an increase in activity from Twitter bots focusing on the divisive issues of immigration, segregation and crime.
“We will learn from the experiences of other countries, which in some cases have been very costly. We have particularly been inspired by the Nordic countries, especially Sweden and Finland, but also the Netherlands,” he said.
Earlier this year, the military intelligence agency Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), said it was already preparing for potential Russian meddling. This led to an interestingly-worded response from Russia, with the Russian Embassy saying “meddling into DK elections makes no sense” because the government and opposition parties are all “Russophobic”.
While the action plan announced on Friday indicated that FE was looking at other “foreign powers” in addition to Russia that might attempt to influence the Danish election, the ministers declined to indicate which other countries have been identified as potential threats.