Danish People’s Party plans comeback after election rout

After suffering a comprehensive defeat at the general election, the Danish People’s Party (DF) wants to take on a new role in the country’s politics – with leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl continuing at the helm.

Danish People’s Party plans comeback after election rout
Martin Henriksen (L) and Peter Skaarup of DF on election night. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe / Ritzau Scanpix

Having acted as a support party for Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s right wing coalition government, a weakened DF will now sharpen its rhetoric and focus on its positioning as a party capable of protest, outgoing immigration spokesperson Martin Henriksen, who lost his seat in the election, told Ritzau.

Right-wing nationalist party DF went from 37 to 16 of parliament’s 179 seats following last week’s vote.

“We will look at whether there is anything we can do better. DF has gone from a party people see as a protest party to being seen as part of the system,” Henriksen said.

“We won’t go back to being purely a protest party but we must show that we can protest against the changes happening in society,” he continued.

Although he is no longer an elected representative, Henriksen has been tasked with leading a group responsible for developing strategy on DF’s core issues.

“If you look at DF’s programme, it is fundamentally about protecting the monarchy, the Church of Denmark and the family as the pillar of society. We must be better at showing this,” he said.

Henriksen said that the crushing election defeat could be attributed to the party’s failure to put across these positions strongly enough, as well as difficulties in gaining media attention.

“During the election, we tried – for example – to put out a criticism of Stram Kurs [extremist anti-Islam party, ed.], because they want to separate church and state. But that wasn’t possible, because editorial decisions were made at various media which stopped us getting our message across,” he said.

It was “harder to get traditional DF standpoints across,” Henriksen said.

The new group has already begun its work. Henriksen’s participation is on a voluntary basis, he said.

READ ALSO: Refugees to childcare: Five issues that could thwart talks to form Danish government

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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