Party leader asks for patience as Danish wait for new government goes on

With 12 days having passed since Denmark’s negotiations over a new government began, the leader of one of the involved parties has asked for the public’s patience.

Party leader asks for patience as Danish wait for new government goes on
Pia Olsen Dyhr. Photo: Thomas Sjørup / Ritzau Scanpix

Pia Olsen Dyhr, leader of the Socialist People’s Party (SF) wrote on social media to ask for Danes’ forbearance.

“I hope you will be patient for a while yet – and I hope that we can find the foundations for a new centre-left government,” Dyhr wrote on Facebook.

The SF leader also said she could understand if it seemed to observers as though those responsible for the negotiations were beginning to sound repetitive.

“I’d be the first person to say that it’s not fun, after a long election campaign with full steam ahead on political visions, to suddenly have to tread water every day on the way in and out of the meeting room (for negotiations),” she said.

“But we can’t really do things any other way right now, and we can hopefully soon be much more specific,” she added.

After winning an overall majority in the June 5th general election, the left-of-centre group of ‘red bloc' parties, including SF, must now agree on a platform on which to back Social Democrat leader Mette Frederiksen as the new prime minister.

On Monday, negotiations between the four parties – the Social Democrats, Social Liberals, SF and Red Green Alliance – were temporarily put on hold. That gave Dyhr time to reflect on progress so far, the SF leader said.

“We agree on many things – first and foremost, our overall direction – but when we get into specifics, things get more difficult. There is always progress, but also obstacles,” she wrote without revealing further detail.

The parties appear to be close to agreement on welfare and climate, Ritzau writes, with the Social Liberals advocating a markedly different approach to the economy to the other parties.

Meanwhile, all parties apart from Frederiksen’s Social Democrats want a more accommodating approach to refugees and immigration. The Social Democrats have said they will “broadly” continue the approach of the outgoing government.

It is unknown whether negotiations will continue on Tuesday, Ritzau reported Monday evening.

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