Far-right Danish People’s Party chooses new leader

The scandal-hit politician Morten Messerschmidt has been chosen as the new leader of the far-Right Danish People's Party, despite an ongoing case over his alleged defrauding of EU funds.

Far-right Danish People's Party chooses new leader
The Danish People's Party's new leader Morten Messerschmidt holds a bouquet aloft after being elected on Sunday. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

Messerschmidt won 60 percent of the 825 votes, easily beating the two other candidates, Martin Henriksen and Merete Dea Larsen.

In a speech after the vote in Herning, the party’s Jutland heartland, Messerschmidt struck a conciliatory tone, saying he hoped to unite the struggling party.

“There will now come a time when we will make our party whole again, where we will gather our party together, and where there will be a place for everyone,” he said. “There will not be any repercussions for what has happened in the time that is now passed. Now we will look forward together.”

Messerschmidt was convicted in August of forging documents and defrauding EU funds. But the judge in the case has since been declared incompetent, meaning the case now needs to be heard in a district court, and perhaps later in Sweden’s high court.

In the run-up to the election, several Danish People’s Party MPs described the ongoing case as a serious hurdle for Messerschmidt’s candidacy.

The harsh conflict between the candidates led party founder Pia Kjærsgaard to describe the leadership contest as the worst she had seen since starting the party in 1995. 

Henriksen, an anti-immigration firebrand who has been one of the party’s staunchest critics of Islam, has predicted that he will be sidelined under Messerschmidt. Several other MPs had openly aired their plans to leave the party if Messerschmidt was appointed leader.

During the campaign, Henriksen laid the blame for many of the party’s problems on his rival, who has been deputy leader since 2020.

“Over the last two to three years, everything has gone completely wrong, and this has happened at the same time as the [person occupying] the second-highest post in the party has changed,” he said.

Messerschmidt announced before the vote that he would make Peter Kofod, a 31-year-old MEP and former primary school teacher, his deputy if elected.

He campaigned on a pledge to form a coalition government with the centre-Right Liberal Party if the right-wing parties achieve a majority in the coming general election. He has also pledged to campaign for a referendum on Denmark’s membership of the European Union.

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Danish election: What happens next after narrow win for left bloc?

The ‘red bloc’ faction of left-wing, centre-left and green parties took the narrowest of majorities in Denmark’s election on Tuesday night. What happens next and what might the next government look like?

Danish election: What happens next after narrow win for left bloc?

Current prime minister Mette Frederiksen is in a strong position to stay in her job after as the ‘red bloc’ traditionally led by her Social Democratic party, was able to scrape together a hairline, one-seat majority in parliament with 90 of the 179 mandates, or seats, on Tuesday night.

It was the North Atlantic mandates that ultimately pushed the red bloc over the edge — one of the Faroe Islands’ two seats and both of Greenland’s.  

Frederiksen’s own party returned a strong performance, taking a 27.5 percent vote share and gaining two seats to take its total to 50. It is the best election result for the Social Democrats for 20 years and makes them comfortably the largest party.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s red bloc takes knife-edge victory 

Although Frederiksen now looks in a position to secure enough backing from the left to form a government, she may still push through with her plan to attempt to form a government across the centre, giving centre-right parties a place in power.

What happens next?  

At 11 am, PM Frederiksen will meet with Queen Margrethe to formally tender the current government’s resignation and recommend a dronningerunde or “Queen’s round.” 

Each party head must pay a visit to the queen at Amalienborg to ceremonially tell the queen their pick for the “Queen’s investigator” to form a new government. That title, though not necessarily PM, will almost certainly go to Frederiksen.  

Frederiksen has reiterated her desire for a broad centrist government, suggesting she’ll be courting blue bloc parties in the coming days. 

In comments reported by broadcaster DR, Frederiksen said “it is certain there is no longer a majority behind the government in its current form,” meaning a minority government consisting only of the Social Democrats.

“The Social Democrats campaigned on the basis of a broad government [centre coalition, ed.]. If a majority of parties nominate me as Queen’s investigator, I will see whether this is possible,” she said.

The left wing Red Green Alliance and centre-left Socialist People’s Party (SF) have already stated that they oppose a centre coalition, calling for Frederiksen to form a centre-left government based on the parties that will nominate her to lead the Queen’s round.

What is certain is that Frederiksen is now in the driving seat in upcoming talks to form a government.

Despite his newly-formed party grabbing 16 seats, Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s position has been significantly depleted at the last moment.

As leader of the centrist Moderates, which he founded only last year, Rasmussen was expected to wake up a kingmaker — exit polls had suggested neither bloc would be able to reach a majority without the support of Rasmussen and the Moderates.

With the red bloc’s 90 seats, however, Rasmussen is left in a much weaker position than the exit polls projected.

Such was the last-minute nature of the red bloc majority, Rasmussen was still written up as the “breakout king” (udbryderkongen) on newspaper Politiken’s cover on Wednesday morning, while tabloid Ekstra Bladet described him as “the battering man” (smadremanden).