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Danish PM declares for cross-aisle coalition in dramatic election eve announcement

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Danish PM declares for cross-aisle coalition in dramatic election eve announcement
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. Photo: Martin Sylvest / Ritzau Scanpix
18:07 CEST+02:00
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced a dramatic change of course for his party on the eve of the general election by declaring its priority was now to form a government with traditional rivals the Social Democrats.

***REMINDER: Follow the results of the Danish election live with The Local from 8pm on Wednesday***

A coalition of conservative parties -- such as the one currently in place -- had been the stated first choice of Rasmussen’s Liberal (Venstre) party throughout the month-long election campaign.

But Rasmussen will instead seek to form a broad coalition which crosses the traditional left-right divide between Denmark’s competing ‘red and blue’ blocs, he told TV2 News.

That is a major change of direction for the Liberals, who had, up to now, said they would continue to govern exclusively with right wing parties, should they prevail in Wednesday’s vote.

“I have reached the conclusion that, if the Liberal party gains a strengthened mandate tomorrow, I will use all of my energy and experience to see whether it will be possible to form a government with responsible, experienced parties across the aisle,” the PM said to the broadcaster.

Last month, Rasmussen raised speculation about a possible coalition with the Social Democrats by describing a potential government partnership between the two as a “real option” in a new book.

But the option was not his first choice, he said at the time.

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Polling throughout the build-up to the election has shown the conservative ‘blue bloc’ trailing behind in its efforts to win an overall majority of votes.

That was alluded to by Rasmussen as he announced his last-minute change of course.

He called a coalition of conservative parties “not a realistic option” after the election.

“If there’s a blue majority tomorrow, I feel convinced that it would include parties that I will not accommodate,” Rasmussen said, ostensibly in reference to the New Right and Stram Kurs parties.

“The alternative is there will be no blue majority. And then we have a situation in which a Social Democratic prime ministerial candidate must accommodate the far left. Neither option is in Denmark’s interests,” Rasmussen told TV2.

The leader of the Social Democrats, Mette Frederiksen, has on a number of occasions ruled out governing in partnership with Rasmussen’s Liberals, repeating her party’s stated goal of form a minority government that can cooperate with both the right and left wing to govern effectively.

READ ALSO: Mette Frederiksen: The new face of the Danish Social Democratic model

Another centre-left party, the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), could also come into play.

That party’s deputy leader Martin Lidegaard called a cross aisle coalition between the two traditional prime ministerial parties a “dream scenario” in an interview with Jyllands-Posten on Monday, and the Social Liberals join the government or offer parliamentary support in such a scenario, according to Lidegaard.

The Social Liberals, currently polling at an estimated 8.9 percent or 16 seats, broadly support liberal economic policy comparable to the Venstre party.

They have called for some of the strict immigration laws passed by the current right-wing government – with Social Democrat support – to be rolled back.

Frederiksen has rejected a liberal-style spending programme, saying to TV2 on Monday that she wants “an economic plan that benefits the fight against inequality and invests in welfare.”

The Conservative and Liberal Alliance parties, Rasmussen’s outgoing coalition partners, lamented the PM’s announcement on Tuesday evening.

“This announcement is a fundamental betrayal of liberal-conservative Denmark,” Liberal Alliance leader Anders Samuelsen fumed.

“He is betraying the fight for an alternative option to the social democratic-socialist one. He’s throwing himself directly into the arms of Mette Frederiksen,” he told DR, adding:

“I must say, there must be a lot of confusion out there. Because what will the Liberals’ position be tomorrow? I don’t know.”

Conservative leader Søren Pape Poulsen said things looked “difficult” for the right wing.

“It looks difficult for the conservative project when the leader of the blue bloc actively says he wants a cross-aisle government. But I’ll say this: Perhaps voters will spring a surprise and give us a conservative majority tomorrow, so it’s a shame this is coming out today,” Poulsen told DR.

***REMINDER: Follow the results of the Danish election live with The Local from 8pm on Wednesday***

 
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