Politics For Members

Four key takeaways from the EU elections in Denmark

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Four key takeaways from the EU elections in Denmark
Social Democratic EU lead candidate Christel Schaldemose speaks at an election night event on June 9th. The Social Democratic were handed a defeat by voters. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark’s EU election results returned a dream result for one party and defeats for the coalition leaders. Here are some key takeaways for Danish politics after Sunday’s vote.


Rejection of Social Democrats’ centrist push? 

The Social Democrats and leader Mette Frederiksen moved towards the centre of domestic politics in 2022 by forming a coalition government across the political centre, with the Liberal (Venstre) and Moderate parties. Broadly, that means the party can work more with parties from the right to make laws, and is less dependent on collaboration with its traditional allies to the left.

The EU elections, the first elections in Denmark since the government took office at the end of 2022, appear to be a rejection of this project by Social Democratic voters, according to an analysis by political media Altinget.

This is evidenced by the huge election win for the Socialist People’s Party (SF), a “neighbouring” party on the centre left which usually plays second fiddle to the Social Democrats, Altinget suggests.

A final count of the votes in Denmark early this morning showed SF taking a 17.4 percent of the vote, up 4.2 points from 2019, making them the largest Danish party in the EU parliament and giving them 3 of Denmark’s 15 seats.

That means SF effectively takes a seat from the Social Democrats, who lost 5.9 points to end on 15.6 percent, with their mandate allocation staying at 3. However, they would have been hoping for a fourth seat, with Denmark’s overall seat allocation increasing because of Brexit.

The result is the worst for the Social Democrats in terms of vote share since 1898, Altinget points out.

“There is absolutely nothing to suggest that Social Democratic voters have become a lot more enthusiastic about SF’s EU politics, on the other hand a lot of Social Democratic voters are deeply dissatisfied with the conservatives and are voting for SF instead,” analyst Erik Holstein writes.


Struggles for rest of government but Liberals survive under pressure 

The Liberal (Venstre) party also had a damaging evening. The party, which partners the Social Democrats and the Moderates in the coalition government, lost 8.8 points and is now Denmark’s third-largest in the EU on 14.7 percent and 2 seats – 2 fewer than it had in 2019.

The Moderates, meanwhile, took a single seat in the EU parliament for their lead candidate Stine Bosse with a 5.9 percent share in their first EU election.

The results expose “the differences within the government”, Holstein writes for Altinget, the Moderates’ leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen now appearing to admit to difficulties in the coalition by saying “we need to sharpen our appetite for change”.

Bosse’s election campaign is described as “awful” – she had to withdraw inaccurate comments she made on Moderate immigration policies early in the campaign – and the party fell a long way short of its target of two seats by gaining a single seat with very little to spare.

Although the Liberals lost half their seats, they remain the largest Danish right-wing party in the EU by some distance, seeing off any challenge from the libertarian Liberal Alliance (LA) along with the far right. That will be welcomed by the Liberals, who have seen LA repeatedly outstrip them in domestic opinion polls.


Denmark not involved in broader far-right gains

Europe's far-right parties were winners in many places, coming out on top in France, Italy and Austria, while Germany's AfD came second.

This strengthening of the far right did not happen in Denmark, where the Danish People’s Party saw its vote share shrink by 4.4 points to 6.4 percent, and the debutant Denmark Democrats gained one seat with a 7.4 percent share.

The Social Democrats have long held a strict anti-immigration stance which mirrors that of the far right, limiting the likelihood of Social Democratic voters moving to far right parties on immigration issues, Altinget observes.

READ ALSO: What we learned from the European elections across Europe

SF wants to use result to pave way for new government

In comments that might further unsettle their long-term allies in the government, SF leader Pia Olsen Dyhr said the party’s excellent result must be used as a “catalyst” for a new political landscape in Denmark.

The EU election result can fuel further gains for SF when the next general election comes around, Dyhr said in the midst of her party’s celebrations.

“There’s an alternative to this government. There’s an alternative that wants [more] welfare and [to do more for] the climate and we are willing to deliver this in the EU parliament,” she told broadcaster DR.

“It gives us a tailwind and enthusiasm for the party and it means people will be even more ready for local elections next year and the general election further ahead,” she said.



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