Analysis: What does the EU election result mean for Denmark’s general election?

Centrist parties, including Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s Liberals, fared well in Sunday’s EU elections, while the nationalist Danish People’s Party suffered badly. But how might the results affect next week’s general election?

Analysis: What does the EU election result mean for Denmark’s general election?
Will Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen still be on a high after Denmark's second elections in two weeks? Photo: Thomas Sjørup / Ritzau Scanpix

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.


The Local's 2019 general election guide to:

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.

READ ALSO: EU elections: Danish centrists perform strongly as nationalists dealt huge defeat

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.

READ ALSO: EU elections in Denmark: 'Free movement should also be fair movement'

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OPINION: If you can’t go home for Christmas, Denmark is a good place to be

After missing out on seeing his family for Christmas 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett got to try out Danish Christmas for the first time.

A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve.
A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve. File photo: Vibeke Toft/Ritzau Scanpix

We’d always planned to spend last Christmas in the UK. My daughter was born in March 2020, coinciding with the outset of the global coronavirus pandemic but, as worrying and uncertain as everything was at the time, we were sure it would have all settled down in nine months’ time. We started planning for her to spend her first Christmas with her grandparents, cousin and the rest of our extended family in England.

As we all know, this was far from how things turned out. The autumn and winter of last year saw spiralling Covid-19 cases across Europe and countries responding by introducing more and more restrictions, including on travel.

I’m not sure exactly when we conceded we’d have to cancel our plans to go to the UK for Christmas in 2020, but I do remember the look of resignation on my parents’ faces when I let them know. The writing had already been on the wall for a while by then.

Visiting my partner’s mother in December, I looked out of the window at the greying skies over Jutland, the dim lights of a distant Føtex store and the limp red and white pendants on flag poles as bare as the trees, and nothing felt familiar.

This was because, despite having lived in Denmark for almost a decade and a half, I’d never spent Christmas in the country. Every year I’d head home by the 22nd or 23rd, usually returning just before New Year to enjoy the rowdy firework displays in Aarhus or Copenhagen after a week of putting my feet up and savouring the familiarity and comfort of Christmas at home.

Denmark famously has its own Christmas traditions, comparable but certainly different to the British ones. I knew about them – I’ve exchanged information about national Christmas customs with many Danes over the years – but never witnessed them first-hand.

The big day came around quickly, not least because it all happens on the 24th, not the 25th.

Festivities did take a while to get going, though. Not until 4pm in fact, when ancient Disney Christmas special From All of Us to All of You, known in Danish as Disneys juleshow began on main TV broadcaster DR. Usually I’d have been watching an early-1980s David Bowie introducing The Snowman around now. A cup of warm gløgg (spiced red wine with raisins and almonds) was thrust into my hand, and I missed Bowie a little bit less.

After a couple more glasses of gløgg and wine, we sat down for Christmas dinner: roast duck, brown potatoes, boiled potatoes, gravy and red cabbage. It was of course already dark and a prolific number of candles were lit on the table and around the room, adding to the festive feeling of the star-topped tree, paper hearts and other decorations.

For dessert, we had risalamande, the popular cold rice sweet mixed with whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds and served with cherry sauce. By tradition, one whole almond is left in the dessert and whoever finds it wins a present, which is customarily a julegris, a chocolate pig with marzipan filling. This game is often fixed so that a child (or children) wins the prize, but the only child present was a nine-month-old and I ended up finding the almond in my bowl.

Then it was time to dance around the tree and exchange presents. Most of us had too much dessert, so it was a more sedate affair than I expected. After the little one was fast asleep we sat back on the sofas and had a couple more glasses of wine or maybe a few snacks.

It was all over before Santa traditionally lands his sleigh on rooftops and hops down British chimneys in the small hours of Christmas morning.

Danish families with young children often assign someone to dress up as Father Christmas and come round to deliver the presents to excited youngsters before dinner on Christmas Eve.

Maybe I’ll get the chance to audition for the role next year because our Danish-British family will be in Denmark every other Christmas for the foreseeable future – by choice, not restriction. I’m looking forward to it, because my first Danish Christmas gave me a better understanding of why this time of year is loved by so many Danes.

READ ALSO: My five favourite Danish childhood Christmas memories