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Danish Liberal leader steps down as defence minister

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Danish Liberal leader steps down as defence minister
Jakob Ellemann-Jensen (R) and Troels Lund Poulsen are swapping ministries after Ellemann-Jensen said he could no longer combine the positions of Liberal leader and defence minister. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the leader of coalition partner the Liberal (Venstre) party, will not continue as defence minister, stating it is not possible for him to combine the two roles.

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At a briefing on Tuesday Ellemann-Jensen, who is also deputy prime minister, said that he cannot continue as defence minister if he is to remain as Liberal party leader, and will therefore switch to the economy ministry in a reshuffle.

Ellemann-Jensen returned to parliament at the beginning of August after a six-month spell away on stress-related sick leave.

“This is a decision I made last week, after I came back from sick leave and have had the opportunity to get an oversight of the tasks at the defence ministry and in the multilateral government,” he said.

“This adaptation I have decided on is due to two things: my love for the Liberal Party, and my love for the defence ministry,” he said.

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During Ellemann-Jensen’s sick leave, his role was covered by economy minister Troels Lund Poulsen. It is Poulsen who will now take the defence minister job full-time, swapping with Ellemann-Jensen who becomes minister for the economy.

“If I as leader of the Liberals am to… fulfil my duties as leader and make the Liberals a relevant part of the government, I can’t be defence minister at the same time,” Ellemann-Jensen said.

“I chose this minister post with my heart and I think every knows I love the military. But I can’t see how it can be different,” he said.

“I must be clear to everyone by now that a major tidy up is needed in all of the defence ministry’s business,” he said in reference to incorrect information given by the ministry to parliament earlier this year over the purchase of 19 artillery cannons for Denmark’s military from Israeli company Elbit Systems.

Ellemann-Jensen recently apologised to parliament over the matter and backed an independent review.

“I recognise that this is a big task and will need full time to resolve. That’s why Troels is being placed in the defence ministry. There’s a stack of bad cases. There must be focus on these cases. It won’t do to have a minister that’s also party leader,” he said.

He also said that the ministerial reshuffle was not related to his health.

The Liberal (Venstre) party received a boost to its polling after Ellemann-Jensen returned from sick leave at the beginning of August.

The party is now polling at 12.3 percent according to polling institute Voxmeter, its best share so far this year but still below the 13.3 percent received at last November’s election.

Although Ellemann-Jensen’s return seems to have given his party a shot in the arm, their poll numbers still have a long way to go to return to the traditional vote share of the Liberals, who are usually the biggest party on the right in Denmark.

The party had a 19.5 percent vote share at the 2015 election and 23 percent in 2019, even though they lost the latter election.

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