Former health minister Nørby to challenge Støjberg for Denmark Liberal deputy leadership

Former minister Ellen Trane Nørby on Monday announced her candidacy for the deputy leader position with the Venstre (Liberal) party.

Former health minister Nørby to challenge Støjberg for Denmark Liberal deputy leadership
Ellen Trane Nørby in January this year. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

The leadership of the party, the largest on Denmark’s right, is up for grabs after former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen and deputy Kristian Jensen recently announced their resignations.

With Jakob Ellemann-Jensen expected to take over as leader, Støjberg, an outspoken former minister of immigration and integration, was the only contender for the deputy position until Nørby’s announcement on Monday.

The former minister for health told Jydske Vestkysten she would do a better job of uniting the party than Støjberg, after infighting following the loss of the general election in June.

READ ALSO: Foreign doctors must meet Danish language standards: Nørby

Nørby also detailed her decision in a long social media post.

“The absolute most important task for the new Liberal leadership is to unite the party. It’s a huge job. I want to be part of fulfilling that task,” she wrote on Facebook.

The new leader and deputy leader will be voted for by members at the Liberal party extraordinary national congress on September 21st.

“This means that Liberal members and delegates will have the opportunity to choose the profile of their deputy leader,” Nørby told Jydske Vestkysten.

Prior to taking on the ministerial portfolio for health, Nørby also served as minister for children and education and minister for equality.

Some elements of the party may see her as a safer option than Støjberg, who is set to face a parliamentary inquiry into an illegal 2016 directive issued when she was immigration minister.

READ ALSO: Former immigration minister Støjberg to face renewed scrutiny in official inquiry

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Who do Denmark’s right-wing parties want to be prime minister?

Conservative parties in Denmark must now decide who their favoured prime ministerial candidate will be, with to party leaders declared as candidates for the job.

Who do Denmark’s right-wing parties want to be prime minister?

Denmark will have three candidates for prime minister in the next election – a change from the usual two – after Søren Pape Poulsen, the leader of the Conservative party, said on Monday that that he will stand as a PM candidate in the next general election.

Poulsen’s declaration on Monday means there are now two leaders from right wing parties in Denmark with an expressed aim of securing backing as prime minister following the next general election. The other is the Liberal (Venstre) party leader, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen.

The third candidate is the incumbent, Social Democrat Mette Frederiksen, who commands the support of left-wing parties.

Poulsen’s announcement means smaller right-wing parties will have to decide who they would ultimately back to be prime minister.

It is unlikely the situation would hand the election to Frederiksen, as the right-wing parties can be expected to eventually align behind one of Ellemann-Jensen or Poulsen should they have an overall majority after the next election.

The leader of the Liberal Alliance, a libertarian party which currently has three seats in parliament, told news wire Ritzau his party was yet to decide on a preferred candidate.

“It’s still too early to say for us. Primarily because it’s actually unclear to me what their visions actually are,” Alex Vanopslagh said.

Another conservative party, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, is also yet to decide on its support, but leader Morten Messerschmidt welcomed Poulsen’s candidacy.

“It means something – who is the safest hand to lead Denmark through an uncertain time. And that’s what we’re going to have some good talks about, and I won’t be announcing anything here today,” he said.

“But I can just say that I’m very happy that Søren Pape has entered the ring,” he said.

READ ALSO: Danish Conservative leader confirms plan to become prime minister

Vanopslagh however said that Poulsen’s announcement “does not make a positive impression when [he] has waited for so long”, leaving Liberal leader Ellemann-Jensen to “take the flack” as opposition leader through a difficult period.

Pernille Vermund, leader of the far-right Nye Borgerlige (New Right) party, said she would not announce which of the two her party will back until after the election.

“Politically I’m probably a bit closer to Søren Pape Poulsen, but on the other hand the last three years have given me a good impression that if you make an agreement with Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, you can trust the Liberal party,” she said.

Vermund also called for clear statements from both party leaders on their immigration policies.

The announcement by the Conservative leader has disrupted the established order in the ‘bloc’ system which usually prevails in Danish politics.

The ‘bloc’ classification commonly broadly denotes whether parties are right or left of centre.

Recent decades have seen the ‘blue bloc’ parties work together in parliament to back the leader of the Liberal party, currently Ellemann-Jensen, to be prime minister if they command a majority after a general election.

The next election in Denmark must take place no later than June 4th next year, but recent speculation has suggested Frederiksen is likely to call an election as soon as this autumn.

A recent Voxmeter poll for news wire Ritzau gave the Liberal party 13.4 points, compared to 13.3 points for the Conservatives. The poll gave an overall conservative majority.

READ ALSO: How likely is Denmark to have a general election ahead of schedule?