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Could Baltic Sea gas pipe leaks affect Denmark’s election timeline?

Four leaks have been detected after suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines running from Russia to Europe. Could the leaks, which are in the Danish and Swedish economic zones, impact the timing of Denmark’s next general election?

Could Baltic Sea gas pipe leaks affect Denmark’s election timeline?
A Swedish Coast Guard photo showing the release of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Could the incident mean Denmark hesitates to call a general election? Photo: Handout/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

Leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines near Danish island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea are due to “deliberate acts” and “not an accident”, Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday.

“The clear advice from the authorities is they were deliberate acts. We are not talking about an accident,” Danish prime minister Frederiksen told a press conference. “We don’t have information yet about those responsible.” 

But the situation in the Baltic Sea should not affect the likelihood of an early general election being called in Denmark, according to three different political parties.

The Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party earlier this year demanded Frederiksen call an early election. The demand was issued in response to the conclusions of an inquiry into the government’s 2020 mink scandal, which resulted in Frederiksen receiving a rebuke.

The Social Liberals have threatened to bring down the government through a vote of no confidence if an election is not called by October 4th.

Legally, the latest date on which a general election can be held is June 4th next year.

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

The centre-left Social Liberals, a parliamentary ally of the governing Social Democrats, on Tuesday said they are sticking to their early election demand despite a raised alert level in Denmark after the explosions and leakages at the Nord Stream gas pipes.

“This happened in international waters. It is not an attack on Denmark,” Social Liberal leader Sofie Carsten Nielsen said in a social media post, while also calling the Nord Stream leaks “disturbing”.

“There are both wars and crises that must be dealt with for a long time yet,” she also wrote in the post.

“That is also why we can’t wait for an eight-month long election campaign,” she wrote.

“We need an election. So we can get away from election campaigning. And solve the challenges,” she added.

Another left wing party, the Red Green Alliance, has not commented on the early election situation since the Nord Stream leaks. The party’s political leader, Mai Villadsen, earlier called the threat “risky” because it could result in defeat for the left-wing alliance which currently works with the government.

The government’s two main rivals in opposition, the Conservatives and the Liberal (Venstre) party, both said on Wednesday that they did not believe the Nord Stream situation was cause to delay an election.

“Denmark has de facto been in election season since the Social Liberals gave Mette Frederiksen an ultimatum after the Mink Commission’s heavy criticism of the prime minister and her leadership,” Liberal political spokesperson Sophie Løhde said in a written comment to news wire Ritzau.

“Our country has large challenges which must be solved. And a general election is needed so we can get a new prime minister and a conservative-liberal government that will take responsibility and create economic security for Danes and steer us safely through the energy crisis,” she said.

A similar message came from Løhde’s counterpart in the Conservative party, Mette Abildgaard, who noted that the events in the Baltic did not represent a military threat to Denmark.

“There is no heightened military security threat to Denmark. This is a serious situation but it will also be a serious situation in two, three or four months. We can therefore just as well get an election done so we are ready to deal with the coming challenges,” she said to Ritzau.

The government is yet to give any indication of when it might call an election, with Frederiksen skirting the issue when asked.

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POLITICS

Question marks remain about Søren Pape despite party support

The Danish Conservatives on Saturday expressed unanimous support for chairman Søren Pape Poulsen despite the very disappointing election result on November 1st.

Question marks remain about Søren Pape despite party support

The Danish Conservative party expressed unanimous support for chairman Søren Pape Poulsen on Saturday, despite a very disappointing election result on November 1st.

It seems that Pape has weathered the storm for the time being. That is the opinion of political commentator Hans Engell, “but whether he is the leading conservative candidate in four years can probably be questioned,” he says.

Engell points out that Pape and the Conservatives are currently in the process of negotiating with acting Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen about the possibility of entering into a broad coalition government that stretches across the Danish political spectrum, an idea that Pape categorically refused to consider during the election campaign.

After the election, however, he has opened up to the possibility of a broad government.

READ ALSO: Danish government: Rasmussen backs coalition with traditional rivals

“The Conservatives could theoretically be in a government in a month. It is clear that during that phase, the party always gives support to its leading figures,” Engell says. “But of course, this does not mean that the critics and those who wanted a more thorough analysis are completely silent.”

No obvious successor

Engell points out that there is currently no obvious successor to Pape. The leadership of the Conservatives gathered at Egelund Castle in North Zealand on Saturday to discuss the result of the general election.

When Pape announced his candidacy for Prime Minister on August 15th, support for the Conservatives increased significantly. Barely a week later, the party had the support of 16.5 percent of the voters in an opinion poll by the analysis institute Voxmeter.

However, there followed a series of personal stories surrounding Pape’s private life and political judgment, and in the end, the Conservatives ended up with just 5.5 percent of the vote in the election.

Engell points out that the issues that the Conservatives focused on did not manage to set the tone of the election campaign. This applies to, among other things, the mink case and tax breaks.

“Many of the topics they ran on did not affect the electorate at all,” Engell pointed out.

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