As well as the centre-right Liberals, small, centre-left parties who have campaigned on prioritizing climate also enjoyed strong performances at Sunday’s EU election.
The success of Rasmussen’s Liberals was perhaps the biggest story of the night, given that it was less expected than the collapse of the Danish People’s Party (DF).
The Danish People’s Party has been involved in scandals over its use of EU funds in recent years and has also seen itself under pressure domestically due to the emergence of new fringe parties, who are seeking to outdo it by taking even harder stances on immigration, DF’s core issue.
As such, the party was expected to struggle, although its loss of over 15 points and three seats in the parliament is dramatic nonetheless.
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But the Liberal Party, which polls suggest will relinquish control of government after the general election, went from two to four EU parliament seats on Sunday and increased its vote share from 16.7 percent in the 2014 EU election to 23.5 percent in 2019.
“All signs suggest that we have had the best EU election ever,” Rasmussen said on Sunday night.
The PM will surely be hoping to ride the wave of the EU election performance into the June 5th general election, which is now just nine days away.
The flipside of Sunday’s results for Rasmussen is that the other parties that enjoyed a good night are the ones which are opposing him in the general election.
Although the Social Democrats, who would have hoped to become the biggest Danish party in the EU following DF’s collapse, failed in that objective, prime ministerial candidate Mette Frederiksen’s party did fare well, going from 19.1 points to 21.5, albeit not enough to gain a seat.
Meanwhile, the Social Liberals, Socialist People’s Party and the left wing Red-Green Alliance all increased their vote shares and number of seats.
Right-of-centre parties – the Liberals, Conservatives, Liberal Alliance and Danish People’s Party – have seen their overall share of the EU parliamentary vote shrink from 55 percent to 43 percent, as Politiken’s political editor Anders Bæksgaard points out.
If that trend is mirrored in the general election, Rasmussen will be in trouble, despite his own party’s apparent rejuvenation after Sunday’s vote.
Climate is high on the agenda of many Danish voters in both elections, while the country’s populace seems to have taking a generally more pro-EU stance in the light of the United Kingdom’s Brexit turmoil, hence the support for moderate parties on the left and right.
But other issues – and parties – will surely come into play during the final straight of the long general election campaign. More discussion of immigration and refugees will probably benefit conservative parties to some extent, although this is harder to predict than usual: DF, the quintessential anti-immigration party, is under pressure from all sides after a very poor EU election result and is haemorrhaging voters to both the Social Democrats and far-right fringe parties.
Rasmussen will have to channel the momentum from last night’s result into issues that move voters in a national, and not just a European, context if he is to turn the tide and pull off a second election surprise in as many weeks.