General election: Danish Social Liberals, Conservatives hit highs in poll

The Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party could be hitting a hot streak at just the right time, with the general election one week away.

General election: Danish Social Liberals, Conservatives hit highs in poll
Election placards on display in Horsens. Photo: Anita Graversen / Ritzau Scanpix

A new opinion poll conducted by Voxmeter on behalf of Ritzau has the centre-left party at 9.1 points, its highest level of support since 2014.

“It is great, and of course I am very pleased. It’s just a poll of course, but the trend is pointing in the right direction,”Social Liberal political spokesperson Sofie Carsten Nielsen said.

“I have seen it myself on the street when I go out to speak with people. People are tired of politics for symbolism and want Denmark to go in a new direction, where we solve problems,” Carsten Nielsen added.

Support for the Social Liberal party has increased by two percentage points since the election was announced.

READ ALSO: The Local's general election guide to:

The centre-left party is not alone in seeing an increase in support. The Conservative Party has moved to 5.6 points in the latest Voxmeter poll, its best showing since the 2015 election.

But libertarian Liberal Alliance, a coalition member alongside the Conservatives, slipped to 2.8 percent – its lowest support since the last general election four years ago.

READ MORE: The Local's coverage of the 2019 Danish general election

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Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts

Transfer of power between governments can be associated with antagonism, ill feeling and tension. In Denmark, it is accompanied by the exchange of gifts.

Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts
Mette Frederiksen hands Lars Løkke Rasmussen his new cycling jersey. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The quirky tradition was continued on Thursday as Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen took over from predecessor Lars Løkke Rasmussen as head of government.

Tradition in Danish politics dictates that all outgoing ministers, including the prime minister, exchange gifts with their successors on the day portfolios officially change hands.

The gifts, often referred to in Danish as drillegaver (‘teasing gifts’), are normally chosen with an element of humour in mind, while not forgetting to reference political opposition.

As the keys to the PM’s office were exchanged at Christiansborg Palace, the seat of parliament on Thursday, Rasmussen handed Frederiksen a pair of gloves and blue trousers from a set of overalls.

“I’m now handing over a Denmark in top form. And that must be looked after. I know will you do that, Mette,” Rasmussen said.

“One of the keys to achieving that is for us Danes to pull on our working gear,” he added.

In response, Frederiksen gifted Rasmussen, known for his enthusiasm for bicycle racing, a polka-dotted cycling jersey, making reference to his tendency to “break away from the pack” during the election campaign.

“I hope you will be spending a lot more time cycling in future,” Frederiksen joked as she gave her predecessor the jersey.

Also noting that she had probably not seen the last of the Liberal (Venstre) party leader in politics, the new PM had warm words of tribute for Rasmussen, who has served two separate terms as the head of Denmark’s government, from 2009-11 and 2015-19.

She thanked him for a being a decent opponent and for “everything you have done for Denmark”.

Rasmussen, who was not short of joking remarks himself, said he “had a habit of handing over the keys to a Social Democrat”.

After losing the 2011 election, he gave then-Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt his government’s budget repurposed as a handbag, while Thorning-Schmidt gave Rasmussen a bus ticket.

Roles were reversed in 2015, when Rasmussen, having regained power, gave Thorning-Schmidt a selfie stick and received festival tickets in return.

The Danish tradition of giving gifts while handing over power is a modern one, having gradually emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Transition of power used to be very formal,” DR’s political commentator Bent Stuckert told Politiken in 2011. That is evidenced by the below video, which shows Anker Jørgensen making way for Poul Hartling in 1973.

The 2019 version, coming at the end of a long negotiation period to form government, continued Denmark’s overtly friendly approach to handing over the keys to power.

READ ALSO: Here is Denmark's new Social Democrat government