Danish politics in shock after death of Conservative leader Poulsen

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish politics in shock after death of Conservative leader Poulsen
Conservative lead political spokesperson Mette Abildgaard speaks to media on Sunday following the shock death of party leader Søren Pape Poulsen. Photo: Emil Nicolai Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Political rivals and colleagues have paid tribute to Søren Pape Poulsen, the leader of the Danish Conservative party who died suddenly on Saturday, aged 52.


Poulsen suffered a brain haemorrhage during a party leadership meeting in Jutland town Vejen on Friday and was taken to Odense University Hospital. He died just after 1pm on Saturday.

Conservative general secretary Søren Vandsø, who was present at the meeting, paid tribute to Poulsen in a message on the party’s website.

“He collapsed in the midst of what he dedicated his life to. A political life that sought to make life better for the rest of us. He was giving us an orientation on elderly policies and foreign policy observations and the last thing he saw was a round of applause from his party colleagues,” Vandsø said.

Conservative party members met on Sunday for a memorial service at Christiansborg.

In an interview with broadcaster DR in Sunday, Conservative political spokesperson Mette Abildgaard, a senior figure in the party’s parliamentary group, said she was in shock at Poulsen’s death.

“You prepare yourself for many things in politics. And people often say that life at Christiansborg is unpredictable. But none of us imagined we’d ever experience this,” Abildgaard said.


Poulsen was speaking about party policies during the meeting when “the flow of speech suddenly stopped and it was clear he was in pain. And that it was serious,” she also said.

“It was a Søren in top form, physically but certainly also politically, who was given a hugely engaged presentation when he suddenly stopped, and we heard his last words,” she said.

“There was nothing that could have given us a sign that this was coming,” she also said.

Abildgaard also told DR that “I think we should be careful about speculating over why Søren suffered the serious brain haemorrhage that he did. None of us have the ability to do that,” she said.

Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who was in the same coalition government as Poulsen as prime minister and justice minister respectively from 2015-2019, paid tribute to his former colleague in an interview with broadcaster TV2 on Saturday evening.

Rasmussen, who appeared visibly upset by the news, said that the run-up to the 2022 election had been particularly tough for Poulsen.

At the time, media scrutiny on the Conservative leader was intense amid reports that he had unwittingly passed on incorrect information about his husband, Josue Medina Vasquez. Poulsen and Vasquez later split.


“I can’t free myself from the thought that it is the result of a too-tough political environment and a loving soul,” Rasmussen wrote in a Facebook post.

He elaborated in comments to TV2, saying “of course I don’t know if Søren would not have had a brain haemorrhage if he’d left politics after the last election. But I can see a person going through a process where he’s had hard opposition,” he said.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen offered condolences to Poulsen’s family and said he was a "Conservative in body and soul".

“Today, my thoughts go to Søren's family who were so dear to him, and to the entire Conservative People's Party. May Søren Pape Poulsen rest in peace,” Frederiksen said in a statement on Saturday.

Deputy leader Michael Ziegler takes over as acting chairperson of the Conservatives, broadcaster DR reported. Ziegler, who is not an MP but is mayor of Høje-Taastrup, will not be the political leader.

Poulsen became leader of the Conservatives in 2014 and served as Minister of Justice under former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen from 2016 until 2019.

In the 2022 general election, he ran as a candidate to become prime minister but his party suffered a disappointing election result, returning a 5.5 percent vote share.

Poulsen’s funeral will be at the cathedral in Viborg, the city he served as mayor before becoming Conservative leader. The time and date are set to be confirmed on Monday.

Viborg town hall flew flags at half-mast on Sunday and many residents placed flowers outside Poulsen’s home in the town, while local football team Viborg FF team held a minute’s applause prior to its Superliga match against Randers.


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