Danish People’s Party decimated by new high-profile departures

The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party now only has a handful of lawmakers left in parliament after four high-profile departures this weekend.

Danish People's Party leader Morten Messerschmidt
Danish People's Party leader Morten Messerschmidt following a party meeting on Sunday. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Two former deputy leaders, Søren Espersen and Peter Skaarup, who have had several high profile spokesperson roles in the right wing party, announced they were quitting its parliamentary group this weekend, as did two further members of the group, Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl and Dennis Flydtkjær.

That follows several other resignations from the parliamentary group earlier this year after Morten Messerschmidt was in January elected as the party’s new leader.

The Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti, DF) received 8.7 percent of the votes in the 2019 election, giving it 16 seats in parliament. It now only has six of those seats remaining following the resignations.

Those numbers are a far cry from the party’s strong showings in the early 2010s, which culminated in a 21 percent vote share and 37 seats at the 2015 general election.

DF was also on the wrong end of a trouncing in the November 2021 local elections, which elicited the resignation of former leader and party co-founder Kristian Thulesen Dahl.

Dahl remains a member of the party but last week said he would not run for DF in the next general election, set for 2023.

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

But Dahl’s official exit from the party is a “matter of hours and days”, according to political analyst Hans Engell of media Altinget.

“We are now at a decisive point because the entire top end, the founding fathers, have left the party,” Engell said to news wire Ritzau.

“All that remains is what I would call the jewel in the crown: Kristian Thulesen Dahl. It’s just a matter of hours and days before he leaves the party,” Engell said.

The analyst also said that Messerschmidt’s task in restoring the party was “almost unsolvable”.

DF co-founder Pia Kjærsgaard, who led the party until 2012, remains loyal to Messerschmidt and aimed thinly veiled criticism at Dahl on social media on Sunday.

The party’s issues are further complicated by the launch last week of a new party, Danmarksdemokraterne (“The Denmark Democrats”) by former Liberal (Venstre) party immigration minister Inger Støjberg, who was ejected from parliament late last year following a guilty verdict in a special impeachment court.

Having served her sentence for the conviction, Støjberg is now bidding to return to parliament with the newly-formed party. Given the reputation of Støjberg as an immigration hardliner, some overlap with DF’s signature politics on the area is likely.

Dahl has been linked with the new party and some of the other DF defectors have already signalled their willingness to join the project, according to Ritzau.

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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