Former leader of Danish far-right party to quit at next election

Kristian Thulesen Dahl, the former leader of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, announced on Friday that he will not run for re-election with the party in 2023.

Former DF leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl
Former leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl will not run for the Danish People's Party at the next election. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Dahl confirmed his decision to Denmark’s Radio4 on Friday, citing internal disputes in the party as the reason for his departure.

He did not rule out running at the next election with a different party, however.

“There has been so much going on in recent years and I hoped it had ended when I stepped down as leader in January. But it hasn’t stopped. It keeps on going,” he told Radio4.

The former leader of the Danish People’s Party (DF), who was a co-founder of the party in the 1990s and became its front figure in 2012, resigned after the party was trounced in November’s local elections.

He was replaced by Morten Messerschmidt at a party congress in January, but several DF members of parliament subsequently left the party, saying they would not work under Messerschmidt.

READ ALSO: Is the Danish People’s Party chaos a sign of far-right party’s impending collapse?

Dahl said that a discussion between himself and Messerschmidt over which spokesperson roles would be assigned to the ex-leader were part of the reason for his decision to leave parliament. Too much of the discussion was conducted publicly, according to Dahl.

The party leadership has publicly speculated in recent weeks as to whether additional spokesperson posts would be given to Dahl, who currently is responsible for defence.

“This is not the decisive factor in whether I continue in the parliamentary group, but it’s an indication that even here there’s no desire to build confidence by talking to each other, but instead about each other,” he said.

Dahl said he would remain a DF party member until the next general election, which will take place next year.

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

Analysts in Denmark say Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen could announce a general election as early as next week, despite flagging poll numbers.

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

Speculation suggests that Frederiksen will announce an election, which could take place by October but possibly earlier, when the Social Democrats convene next week for their summer group meeting. 

Legally, the next general election can take place as late as June 4th, 2023. 

But despite worsening polls, a general election in Denmark this autumn now appears likely due to increasing pressure on Frederiksen from other parties and heightened criticism of her government.

“It will not be possible to make any new, broad political agreements on this side of a general election. There’s no willingness to compromise between parties. So Danish politics is already frozen by the election campaign, even though it hasn’t been formally announced yet,” TV2’s political editor Hans Redder said last week.

Redder said it was “relatively probable” that Frederiksen will announce an election in August.

“The political season begins next week. Several parties will have their summer group meetings and start calling press briefings. So it’s just a question of which date Mette Frederiksen decides on,” Redder said.

The Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, which is an ally of the government, has demanded Frederiksen call a general election by October 4th.

Although a new general election is not due until next year, the Social Liberals earlier in the summer said they wanted an election by October after the government and Frederiksen were severely criticised earlier this summer in an official inquiry into the mink scandal.

The Social Liberals have the ability to bring down the government by withdrawing their support for Frederiksen and bringing an no confidence motion in parliament, although it’s not certain they would actually do this.

In addition to the mink scandal, Frederiksen’s government has been damaged by a high-profile case centred around leaks at intelligence service Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), as well as broader criticism of her leadership style.

“(Frederiksen) really needs some wins and we have not heard much about what their election platform will be. That will come when the 2030 (political) plan is presented,” political analyst Hans Engell told news wire Ritzau.

“Bad opinion polls are not conducive to an early general election and it doesn’t seem as though there is complete clarity over their 2030 plan. They are probably keeping all their options open,” he said.

Talk of an early election comes despite poll numbers looking as bad for the government as they have at any time since they came to power in 2019.

A new opinion poll by Voxmeter for news agency Ritzau on Monday gave the Social Democrats their worst showing since 2015. 

The ‘blue bloc’ — anchored by the Liberal party (Venstre) and the Conservative party — command 50 percent of the vote according to the latest poll.

Meanwhile, the government’s ‘red bloc’ holds just 47.5 percent. 

The demands that Frederiksen hold elections by October at the latest come from the Social Liberals, also of the red bloc.

The ‘bloc’ classification commonly referred to in Danish politics broadly denotes whether parties are right or left of centre.

‘Blue bloc’ parties will usually work together in parliament and back the leader of the Liberal party to be prime minister if they can command a majority after a general election. The ‘red bloc’ will usually support the Social Democratic leader to become PM, as is currently the case with Frederiksen.

READ ALSO: Danish PM Frederiksen loses majority in ‘neck and neck’ new poll