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POLITICS

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?
PM Mette Frederiksen. A general election in Denmark in the coming weeks is considered a likely eventuality. Photo: Søren Bidstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

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

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POLITICS

KEY POINTS: What is Denmark proposing to change in its latest reform package?

Denmark’s government on Monday proposed a new reform package which could see major changes introduced at universities and public sector workplaces.

KEY POINTS: What is Denmark proposing to change in its latest reform package?

A new proposal for reforms in Denmark, presented by the government on Monday, could see a significant number of Master’s degree programmes shortened from two years to one and red tape in public services trimmed back.

The proposal is titles Danmark kan mere III (“Denmark can do more part III). It follows earlier reform packages tabled in September 2021 and April 2022, which focused on social welfare and energy, among other areas, respectively.

Higher education 

The headline element of Monday’s proposal is arguably the plan to shorten a large number of Master’s degrees at Danish universities from two years to one.

The proposal was first reported in Danish media last week and has now been formalised with Monday’s announcement.

READ ALSO: Denmark plans to shorten university courses to save money 

Currently, it takes two years to complete any Master’s degree in Denmark (after completing the three-year Bachelor’s degree).

While it is common in some countries – including the United States and United Kingdom – to enter the labour market after completing a Bachelor’s degree, this is not the case in Denmark, where most university students go on to do a Master’s programme.

The government is proposing to shorten around half of all Master’s degrees by a year. This means that the Master’s programme will take one year, rather than two, and that the total time these students spend at university will be around four years, not five.

Under the proposal, around 35 percent of existing MA or MSc degrees will become one-year programmes. 15 percent will become so-called erhvervskandidater “professional Master’s degrees”. These can be structured over anything from one to four years but will require students to work at least 25 hours per week while studying. The total hours of studying add up to a one-year course.

The remaining 50 percent of Master’s degrees will continue as two-year courses.

The government has not specified which programmes will be shortened but has confirmed that humanities and social science subjects will be the primary targets. Scientific degrees are less likely to be cut back.

“The educations in which you need an actual authorisation, for example in the health sector, or where you need to take a specialisation early, these need to remain at two years,” the Minister for Higher Education and Research, Jesper Petersen, said at Monday’s briefing.

The move will release two billion kroner of funding that can be reinvested in education, the government said.

Universities have shown opposition to the proposal. The rector of Aarhus University, Brian Bech Nielsen, told broadcaster DR that the changes would degrade the quality of university educations.

“This is very, very drastic because it is a very, very large proportion of university degrees that would be shortened. How do we know that this helps? [University] requires immersion in study, and that takes time. You can’t learn everything in half the time,” he said.

“It would mean that some Master’s graduates would have a lower level of qualification. That would damage Danish businesses our society and the students,” he said.

Public sector

The government wants to save money by cutting back on bureaucracy, particularly at the municipal level.

Around 2.5 billion kroner of spending will be diverted to other areas under the reform plan by cutting back on administrative labour and spending additional resources on “core welfare” (kernevelfærd), the government said.

“The human side of welfare has been given less time and documentation and cold numbers have been given more time,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at the briefing.

One example of reduced administration is a plan to scrap half of all daily registration tasks in the elderly care sector, DR reports.

According to the government, the plan does not mean fewer public sector workers, but a higher proportion in sectors such as childcare and elderly care.

As such, the plan does not mean people will lose jobs, Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen argues at the briefing.

“Some people will have to be re-trained. Others will spend less time in front of the computer and more in front of the public. It’s not something that can be done with a snap of the fingers but we want to set a very clear direction here,” Wammen said.

The government also wants to apply a “rule stop” (regelstop) meaning that every time a new rule is introduced in the public sector which could divert time from into administration, an existing rule must be scrapped. As such, the total number of rules does not increase.

The national organisation for municipalities, KL (Kommunernes Landsforening) expressed skepticism over the plan in comments to DR.

”There are no shortcut solutions in relation to reducing administration and releasing resources for welfare,” KL’s chairperson Martin Damm told the broadcaster.

The proposal would need backing from a majority of parties to be passed in parliament and implemented.

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