Three candidates for PM in Denmark, and one wild card

Facing off with incumbent Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the right and far-right opposition are mainly lining up behind two candidates to form the next government after the November 1 election.

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who is also leader of the centre-left Social Democrat party, is pictured in Prague, Czech Republic. Denmark is voting on Tuesday, November 1, 2022 in what looks to be a tight election between the incumbent left-wing and a bloc of right-wing and far-right candidates. Photo: Joe Klamar / AFP

The liberal Jakob Ellemann-Jensen and the conservative Soren Pape Poulsen are in the running to take her place, but a third man could also end up being a key player: the centrist and former Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

Let’s take a closer look at the candidates:

Mette Frederiksen: the new anti-immigration left

At 44, the current head of government has embodied the new face of the centre-left Social Democrat, which has embraced ever stricter migration policies in the name of defending the welfare state.

The daughter of a typographer, she has been a member of parliament since she was 24 in 2001.

Frederiksen, who is a mother of two children, is intent on remaining at her post, and a recent poll suggested that 58 percent of Danes think she is the best suited to lead the country.

In 2015, the former employment minister and then justice minister, took over the reins of the largest Danish political party, following the departure of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the country’s first female Prime Minister, after a
defeat in the parliamentary elections.

She became prime minister herself after the 2019 elections and has since led an all-Social Democrat minority government.

Her government’s battle against Covid-19 was widely praised, apart from the “mink crisis”: an emergency cull of all the country’s minks — some 15 million — over fears of a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus. That measure
turned out to be illegal.

It was this affair that hit her popularity and ended up being the tipping point for the calling of the new election.

READ ALSO: What do latest polls tell us about Danish election race?

Venstre Liberal Party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen

Venstre Liberal Party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen is pictured at a debate on Danish TV channel DR 1 in the DR Koncerthuset on Sunday, October 16, 2022. (Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix).

Jakob Ellemann-Jensen: in his father’s footsteps

After a short career in the army and a decade as a lawyer, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen finally ended up following in his father’s footsteps. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen was the leader of the Liberal Party from 1984 to 1998 and foreign minister between 1982 and 1993.

His grandfather was also a member of the Danish Parliament, the Folketing, where his sister also currently holds a seat. Ellemann-Jensen had sworn that he would not follow the same path.

“I have seen what it can do to a family,” he reportedly told his grandmother at the age of 19 according to the Berlingske newspaper. “I won’t do that to myself or my family.”

Yet the father of three, who has been a member of parliament since 2011, took over the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2019, after Lars Lokke Rasmussen stepped down.

The former environment minister has not, however, been able to contain the implosion of his party.

Lokke Rasmussen went to create the Moderate party, and the former migration minister Inger Stojberg founded the Danish Democrats, the new champions of the populist, anti-immigration far-right.


Søren Pape Poulsen

Søren Pape Poulsen, pictured in 2020, was Denmark’s justice minister until 2019. Photo: Amir Nabizadeh / TT / kod 12040

Soren Pape Poulsen: a modern conservative 

Danish voters have long considered conservative Soren Pape Poulsen the most credible politician on the right, but his popularity has waned in recent months.

His trustworthiness has plummeted as a result of lies told by his husband who, despite his claims, is neither Jewish nor the nephew of a former Dominican president.

In 2018, the former stevedore who had become justice minister (2016-2019) introduced a ban on the wearing of full-face veils in public spaces.

At 50 years of age, including eight as the head of the Conservative Party, Pape Poulsen, who argues for tax cuts and a hard line on migration, is struggling to remobilise his electorate.

While opinion polls suggested his party could win 16.5 percent of votes two months ago, now they appear to be trailing at only six percent.

election campaign poster featuring the Chairman of the Moderates party Lars Loekke Rasmussen

An election campaign poster featuring the Chairman of the Moderates party Lars Loekke Rasmussen is seen on the facade of a building in Copenhagen, Denmark, ahead of the general election on November 1, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

Lars Lokke Rasmussen: the wild card 

Having already served two terms as prime minister, between 2009 and 2011 and then from 2015 to 2019, Lars Lokke Rasmussen has emerged as a wild card in this year’s election.

As the head of the newly formed Moderates, positioned as a centrist party, he has led an impressive election campaign.

Polling at 1.8 percent only a month ago, Rasmussen’s party is now seeing voter support of 11.5 percent.

The veteran politician has weathered several storms, including being caught using party funds to buy luxury suits.

A well-known figure among Danes, who appreciate his apparent frankness, he has not declared whether he intends to ally himself with the right or the left.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Far-right Danish party to get new leader next month

Member of Parliament Lars Boje Mathiesen looks set to become leader of the far-right Nye Borgerlige (New Right) party in an uncontested leadership contest.

Far-right Danish party to get new leader next month

The deadline to register as a candidate in the party’s leadership contest expired on Tuesday prior to an extraordinary general meeting on February 7th.

The contest was triggered after party co-founder Pernille Vermund announced earlier in January her intention to step down as leader and eventually quit politics.

Mathiesen was the only member of the party to enter the leadership contest, Nye Borgerlige confirmed on Wednesday.

He is expected to officially replace Vermund as party leader at an extraordinary general meeting in the town of Fredericia next month.

A new deputy leader of the party must be elected at the same event after incumbent Peter Seier Christensen, like Vermund, decided to step down.

Christensen and Vermund co-founded the party, which runs on a libertarian and anti-immigration platform, in 2015.

In contrast to the leadership, there will be a contest to decide who will be the party’s new deputy leader.

Six candidates are running to replace Christensen. The only member of parliament to have put their name forward, Kim Edberg Andersen, has already withdrawn from the contest. Four of the remaining candidates are municipal councillors.

The leadership change reflects ongoing turbulence in the far-right party, which has seen its number of MPs drop from six to four since the general election in November after two of its lawmakers quit the party.

Mikkel Bjørn, the leader of parliament’s citizenship committee, this week defected from Nye Borgerlige to the national conservative Danish People’s Party, citing differences with Mathiesen.

READ ALSO: Leader of far-right Danish party to step down and quit politics