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

A number of centrist Danish parties have increased their seats in the European Parliament, while the anti-immigration and EU-sceptic Danish People’s Party suffered a heavy defeat.

EU elections: Danish centrists perform strongly as nationalists dealt huge defeat
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen celebrates the EU election result with Liberal lead candidate Morten Løkkegaard. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The Venstre (Liberal) party, led domestically by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, increased its seats from two to four, including a new seat which will be allocated to Denmark after the UK leaves the EU due to Brexit.

With a vote share of 23.5 percent, the Liberals are the largest Danish party in the EU parliament.

Two centre-left parties, the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre) and Socialist People’s Party, both moved from one to two seats, while the left-wing Red Green Alliance also gained a seat.

The Social Democrats increased their vote share by 2.4 percent and remain on three seats, while the Conservatives also retain their single seat despite taking 2.9 percent fewer votes than at the last election.

The biggest losers of the night by far were the populist Danish People’s Party, who took over a quarter of all the votes at the previous election in 2014. With 10.7 percent of the vote this time around, the party has suffered losses of 15.9 percent and goes from four seats in the parliament down to one.

Meanwhile, the far-left People’s Movement Against the EU (Folkebevægelsen mod EU), which has consistently held a seat in previous elections, also saw its vote share more than halved, from 8.1 percent to 3.7 percent, and loses its spot in the parliament.

All figures come from public broadcaster DR’s most recent update of the voting count, made in the early hours of Monday.

“All signs suggest that we have had the best EU election ever,” Rasmussen said in his election speech on Sunday night, Danish media including Politiken reported.

Danes return to the polls in nine days’ time to vote in the country’s June 5th general election.

“This is a huge victory for the Liberals, to be able to pull out this victory ten days before a general election,” election researcher and professor Kasper Møller Hansen of Copenhagen University told DR.

Rasmussen found it difficult to contain his delight at the result on Sunday.

“Denmark is a wonderful country. It is not a perfect country, but it is the best there is. We can do much on our own, but not everything,” he said according to Ritzau.

Danish People’s Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl accepted the defeat but said it would not have “consequences” for his party.

“We must accept this and battle on. It won’t have any consequences in the party,” Dahl said to Ritzau.

“We run on the politics we have, and voters must make their choice. Of course I feel a responsibility for this downturn. But I don’t know whether we should have done things differently,” he said.

The results in Denmark are in contrast with a number of other EU countries, including the UK, where Nigel Farage’s new anti-EU Brexit Party took 30 percent of the votes while establishment parties the Conservatives and Labour suffered crushing defeats.

In Italy and France nationalists performed strongly, while establishment parties also took a hit in Germany, with Green parties surging. Neighbouring Sweden saw the governing Social Democrats clinch top spot with the far right gaining ground.

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EU elections in Denmark: ‘Free movement should also be fair movement’

The Local asked Jeppe Kofod, the Social Democratic lead candidate in the elections for the European Parliament, about his party's role in the EU, free movement, residency and Brexit.

EU elections in Denmark: 'Free movement should also be fair movement'
Jeppe Kofod, Social Democrat lead candidate for the European Parliament elections. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe / Ritzau Scanpix

TL: Many of The Local’s readers may be voting for a Danish party or candidate for the first time as EU nationals in Denmark. Can you present the Social Democrats’ work in the parliament and its core issues in this election?

JK: The Social Democrats seek a strong European community, because problems are best solved by working together. Some problems are so great that they can only be solved by working together.

I am campaigning for an EU commitment in which we work together to address issues such as international tax avoidance, money laundering, climate challenges and the refugee and migrant crisis.

Why should EU citizens who live in Denmark vote for you and the Social Democrats? What can the Social Democrats do for Denmark-based Europeans?

You should vote for me if you want a different type of collaborative work within the EU which solves major, cross-border challenges like the climate crisis, international tax avoidance and money laundering.

The issues that concern me, and which I will fight for us to solve together, are European. It’s not just Danes, but all Europeans who lose out when Google, Apple and Facebook pay under 1 percent in tax on their European profits. That means less money for welfare for all of us.

We can also feel the effects of the climate crisis everywhere – whether we live in Copenhagen or Cologne.

And when I talk about securing good working and employment conditions, that is just as much about fair competition in the Single Market so we all get a fair wage and working conditions, regardless of the passport we have.

What is your view on the right to free movement in the EU?

The Social Democrats believe that free movement should also be fair movement. When wage earners contribute to society through hard work, we want to ensure that their rights to fair wages and working conditions are protected.

That’s why we are working for a standardized ID card for floating and remote workers within the EU. That will make it easier to carry out checks and ensure adequate conditions at places of work.

There should also be extra security for EU citizens who come to Denmark, to make it easier to check they are given the pay they are legally entitled to under Danish collective bargaining agreements.

EU rules state that, after five years’ legal residence in Denmark, EU citizens are entitled to permanent residency here. Where do you stand on that?

In principal, we think that EU member states should regulate their own rules on citizenship and residency. However, we see no acute problems with the EU rules currently in place.

What approach should Denmark take to British citizens who want to live in Denmark after Brexit? Should there be a difference between those already here, and those who want to come later?

I think the Danish state should do everything it can to make Brexit as pain-free as possible for the British residents who want to move to Denmark or continue living here.

It’s important to me that we ensure a good, constructive relationship with the United Kingdom in a purely political sense – and naturally retain the sense of shared belonging which a spell studying or living on the other side of the North Sea can give. That also applies to EU citizens who live in the UK.

But this requires the British parliament to show a little more willingness to cooperate than it has up to now. The British House of Commons has now voted down (Prime Minister Theresa) May’s deal three times, and no to other solutions eight times [in so-called ‘indicative votes’ in parliament, ed.]. British politicians cannot agree on what they are against, or what they are in favour of. You can’t lead a country that way. It is a political betrayal right across the political spectrum.

READ ALSO: Five reasons why the European elections really do matter