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Call to resign ups stakes in Danish opposition power battle

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Call to resign ups stakes in Danish opposition power battle
Former foreign minister Kristian Jensen (left) has been accused of manoeuvering to replace party leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix
12:54 CEST+02:00
A top figure in Denmark's centre-right Liberal party has called on leadership contender Kristian Jensen to resign from his posts in the party, upping the stakes in the party's behind-the-scenes power battle.
According to the Politiken newspaper, former defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen made the call in a speech at the summer meeting of the party's MPs, which is currently being held at Kragerup Gods hotel near Kalundborg. 
 
Jensen, who served as foreign minister in Denmark's last government, is facing strong internal criticism after directly contradicting party leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen in an interview with the Berlingske newspaper.
 
In the interview, Jensen declared that Rasmussen's dramatic proposal during June's election campaign of a grand coalition government combining the Liberal and Social Democrat parties was "not the answer" to the threat of extreme right-wing parties. 
 
"An SV government is not the answer, and I think that there's an expectation from the other right-wing parties that if we want to lead cooperation on the right wing, that we should also say that loud and clear," Jensen said. 
 
At a joint press meeting with Jensen on Friday afternoon, Rasmussen, who has said he hopes to stay on as party leader, made light of the conflict. 
 
"We may as well be honest about it, some sparks have been flying," he said, according to state broadcaster DR. "They do with this sort of thing." 
 
He said that it was too early to start a leadership campaign, with the party members not set to vote on the leader until its meeting in November. 
 
"I obviously have an ambition to seek election and it's my understanding that Kristian does too," he said. 
 
A long list of powerful party figures have come forward to condemn Jensen for contradicting his leader. 
 
The party's former MP Carl Holst told Politiken that having such open disagreements about such an important strategic issue was "unsustainable" and "dysfunctional". 
 
"There is no room for the Liberal Parties to appear divided on fundamental issues to the outside," he said. 
 
"It is obviously the chairman who sets the political line in the Liberal Party. That's the way it's always been, and it's also the way it should be today." 
 
Jensen's statement has been seen as an early move in his campaign to replace Rasmussen, with the party membership set to elect or reelect a leader at its national meeting in November. 
 
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