Denmark election: Social Democrats appear headed back into power

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COPENHAGEN – The Social Democrats emerged as Denmark’s biggest party in Wednesday’s election, with preliminary results indicating progress for the left parties and a great loss for the populists.

If confirmed in the final returns, the result points to the fact that the Social Democrats return to power after four years as the main opposition party in the country.

The Social Democrats got roughly 25.9% of the vote after a campaign in which party leaders promised a firm stand against immigration.

Mette Frederiksen, the party leader, said on Wednesday night that the Social Democrats will try to govern as a minority instead of forming a government coalition with smaller parties. He will seek support from the right on some issues, such as immigration, and from the left on other issues, such as social welfare, he said.

Although Frederiksen will not attempt to form a coalition, it is likely that other left parties that increased their votes share their effort to form a government to prevent the center-right from having an opportunity. The Social Democrats and other leftist parties in the center appear to have one more vote than the majority in the 179-seat parliament, the Folketing.

With almost 100 percent of the votes counted, the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen showed a slight gain for four years. But the populist Danish People’s Party, which often voted with center-right liberals, received a big drop in support, which means that Loekke Rasmussen can no longer muster a majority in parliament.

The performance of the Danish People’s Party was a contrast to other European countries, where right-wing populists have been increasing. The party was the second largest party in the outgoing parliament, but its share of votes plummeted to about 9% on Wednesday, compared to 21.1% in 2015.

Loekke Rasmussen acknowledged the defeat and will resign on Thursday.

“You have chosen that Denmark must have a new majority, that Denmark must take a new direction,” Frederiksen told a jubilant crowd in parliament. “And you have chosen that Denmark should have a new government.”

At age 41, Frederiksen could become Denmark’s youngest prime minister.

“The electoral campaign is over, it’s time to find solutions,” he said.

Many voters of the Danish People’s Party have turned to the Social Democrats, mainly because of their opposing views on immigration. The party advocated restricting immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s, but then softened its position in a coalition with leftist parties.

Its lawmakers voted in favor of several laws introduced by the Loekke Rasmussen government to bolster immigration.

“This is really bad,” Popular Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl said of his loss at the polls, but said the party will not change its policy.

The Hardliner Course did not cross the threshold of 2% needed to enter Parliament. The New Right, another openly anti-Muslim group that also presented candidates for the first time, will be in the legislature after obtaining 2.4% of the vote.

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This story has been corrected to show that the name of Danish People’s Party leader is written Kristian Thulesen Dahl.

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