What is going on with Denmark’s Liberal Party?

The Liberal (Venstre) Party, the senior partner in the former coalition government which lost June’s general election, is currently mired in manoeuvring and discord over potential new leadership.

What is going on with Denmark’s Liberal Party?
L-R: Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Kristian Jensen. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Former prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen wants to continue as the party’s leader in opposition, but tensions with Kristian Jensen, the former finance minister and deputy leader who was long-tipped as a future successor to Rasmussen as leader, threaten to curtail the time of both at the top of the party.

Weeks of internal manoeuvring leading up to a party leadership meeting has resulted in calls for both senior figures to step back from the party’s vanguard.

Rasmussen has been criticized by some sections of the party for his election-eve decision to make a cross-aisle governing partnership with the Social Democrats his top priority. He has faced similar criticism from other parties on Denmark’s right.

Other Liberal MPs, including the veteran former defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, have spoken out in support of the former PM.

Prior to the election, Rasmussen said it was not “the law of nature” that the deputy leader of a party eventually takes over as leader.

Jensen, who is the party’s deputy leader, said in an August interview that he was against running another election campaign on a partnership with the Social Democrats, but later apologized at the Liberals’ summer meeting for breaking with the leadership line.

Rasmussen reconfirmed on Tuesday that he means to continue as party leader, Jensen subsequently said he will again seek to be elected as deputy leader, a position he has occupied since 2009.

Disaffection within the party's parliamentary group and membership appears to have resulted in an opening for Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the environment and food minister in Rasmussen’s last government, while former immigration minister Inger Støjberg, a high profile on the party’s right wing, has so far been kept out of contention for a leading role in opposition.

“All over Denmark there is a lot of support for Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, and I could give him my full support should he be the one to take on leader’s duties,” Liberal member of parliament Preben Bang Henriksen told TV2 on Tuesday.

Ellemann-Jensen, whose father, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, led the party in the 1980s and 1990s, has so far remained quiet about his prospects of taking over from Rasmussen, responding “not right now” when asked by broadcaster DR whether he wanted to be leader.

He has also said that he does not intend to challenge Rasmussen for the leadership.

“I intend to vote for Lars Løkke Rasmussen as the leader of the Liberals,” he said.

Henriksen and another Liberal MP, Carsten Kissmeyer, have both openly called for Rasmussen and Jensen to go, while the party’s Central Jutland Region representatives have pulled their support for the current leadership, saying new direction is needed for the party’s future and credibility.

The leader and deputy leader of the party will be voted for at the Liberal Party conference. 

That is currently scheduled to take place on November 16th and 17th, but Rasmussen has speculated it could be brought forward to bring it ahead of the opening of the new parliamentary session in October.

READ ALSO: Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts

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Denmark’s Social Democrats in worst opinion poll since 2015

Amid criticism over the government’s plan to abolish the Great Prayer Day holiday, Denmark’s biggest party the Social Democrats has received its worst opinion poll result for eight years.

Denmark’s Social Democrats in worst opinion poll since 2015

The poll, publish on Monday by institute Voxmeter on behalf of news wire Ritzau, places the Social Democrats on 22.8 points. That is some 4.7 points less than the party’s vote share at the election on November 1st.

The Social Democrats took 50 of parliament’s 179 seats at the election, making them comfortably the largest party in parliament. That number would be cut to 40 seats with Monday’s poll numbers.

The opinion poll result is meanwhile the lowest the party has had since January 2015, when it was in government under former leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

The poll carries a statistic uncertainty level of 2.6 percent.

The two other parties in the coalition government, the centrist Moderates and centre-right Liberal (Venstre) party, also suffer in the poll but to a lesser degree.

The Liberals have 11.5 percent or 20 seats according to the poll, with the Moderates at 8 percent or 14 seats.

The three parties have a combined 89 seats in parliament, but the poll would reduce them to 74 seats and mean they would no longer have the basis for a majority government.

A key challenge for the government currently is its unpopular plan to abolish the Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag) public holiday, in a move it says will enable increased spending in defence to meet Nato targets ahead of the current schedule.

The policy has met with criticism from trade unionsthe church and opposition parties, while the military itself has also distanced itself from the plan.

READ ALSO: Danish economists say abolition of Great Prayer Day is ‘not necessary’

As of Monday, a petition against scrapping the holiday had been signed just under 450,000 times.

A demonstration against the government’s bill to abolish the holiday is planned to take place next Sunday in Copenhagen.

While the government has seen poll numbers suffer, opposition parties have made headway.

The centre-left Socialist People’s Party (SF) is now at 13.5 percent after going into opposition after the election. That makes SF the second-largest party in Denmark according to the poll.

Libertarian party Liberal Alliance moves up to 10.6 percent, almost 3 points more than its election result.

The far-right Nye Borgerlige party falls to 2.5 percent following an internal power struggle.

The poll is based on responses from 1004 representative voters aged 18 or over.