New Danish Liberal leader must be clear on relationship with rivals, MP says

New Danish Liberal leader must be clear on relationship with rivals, MP says
Inger Støjberg passes Kristian Jensen in the corridors at Christiansborg, Copenhagen on September 3rd. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
The new leadership of the centre-right Liberal (Venstre) party must act quickly to provide clarity over the party’s position on working with traditional rivals the Social Democrats, a Liberal MP has said.

The Liberals have governed Denmark for 14 of the last 18 years but lost the June 5th general election to left wing parties headed by Mette Frederiksen’s centre-left Social Democrats.

That came after then-prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who on Saturday stepped down as Liberal leader, made a late overture to Frederiksen for a potential cross-aisle government coalition.

The offer was not taken up by the Social Democrats, who went on to form a minority government with the backing of other parties on Denmark’s left.

Rasmussen’s approach gave rise to mixed opinions within the Liberal party and he faced criticism for it from some quarters. He eventually quit as leader after some regional party boards and MPs openly called for him to step down.

Any incoming leadership must move quickly to resolve discord created by the issue, said Preben Bang Henriksen, a Liberal member of parliament and chair of the parliamentary justice committee.

“We don’t need another farce over, for example, the (potential) partnership with the Social Democrats. Or any other political areas. If there’s disagreement, it must come out into the open now,” Henriksen said.

“Let me just say that I have no reason to think there is (disagreement). But I didn’t think there was in the previous leadership. But I think that appropriate caution will ensure they sit down and find out whether they agree. I’m sure they do,” he added.

Kristian Jensen, who is the party's outgoing deputy leader, said in an August interview that he was against running another election campaign on a partnership with the Social Democrats, as Rasmussen dramatically advocated on the eve of the June 5th vote. Jensen later apologized at the Liberals' summer meeting for breaking with the leadership line.

Jensen, who has been deputy leader for ten years and long-expected to eventually take over from Rasmussen, also announced his resignation on Saturday, seemingly bringing to an end a career-long ambition to lead the party.

Henriksen was one of the earliest voices in the party to call for a change in leadership and has already said he backs favourite Jakob Ellemann-Jensen to take over.

On Monday, he joined a growing list in citing former immigration minister Inger Støjberg as their choice for deputy leader.

Ellemann-Jensen and Støjberg would be a “perfect match” at the head of the party, according to Henriksen.

“They represent both sexes, geographical distribution and different backgrounds,” he said.

“That would, in my view, be an optimal combination.”

READ ALSO: What next for Denmark’s Liberals after Rasmussen farewell?

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