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POLITICS

Danish Conservative leader faces questions 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.

Søren Pape
Political commentator Hans Engell points out that there is currently no obvious successor to Pape. Photo by Andreas Houmann / Conservative People's Party / Press

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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POLITICS

Danes protest against plan to abolish public holiday

Tens of thousands of Danes protested on Sunday against the government's plan to abolish a public holiday to help fund the defence budget.

Danes protest against plan to abolish public holiday

“It’s a totally unfair proposal”, said Lizette Risgaard, the head of the FH union which organised the demonstration and which has 1.3 million members in the country of 5.9 million inhabitants.

Protesters, estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 by police and organisers, gathered outside parliament in Copenhagen and carried signs reading “Hands Off Our Holiday” and “Say No to War”.

Around 70 buses ferried in demonstrators from across Denmark.

Denmark’s left-right government coalition, in power since December and led by Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, plans to scrap the religious holiday known as Great Prayer Day, observed since the 17th century.

The government wants to use the money generated to raise the defence budget to NATO’s target of 2 percent of GDP by 2030, instead of 2033 as previously planned.

It insists the accelerated calendar is necessary due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Danish unions argue the decision to make Danes work an extra day violates the country’s sacrosanct collective wage agreements, negotiated by the unions and the government.

The government decision is “breaking into our Danish model”, Risgaard told AFP.

“The next time we in our parliament think that we need some more money, will they take another holiday or a Sunday and say, ‘oh you’ll have work there’,” she said.

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Mads Overgaard, an 18-year-old student, said he came out to support the Danish model.

“It’s very important that it doesn’t change, because it’s one thing to change this case, but what will they do next time?”, he told AFP.

Kurt Frederiksen, the 56-year-old head of the hotel and restaurant branch of the 3F union, said he also disagreed with the government using the money to boost defence.

“We don’t think that money for war will ever make peace”, he said.

Meanwhile, Johannes Gregers Jensen, the Dean of Copenhagen in Denmark’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church, of which around 73 percent of Danes are members, said the main problem was the “principle that is broken here”.

Denmark has a long tradition whereby Church matters “are decided by the people in the Church and the government shouldn’t put their finger into that”, he said.

“They are doing that… and that’s a huge problem.”

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