ELECTION 2015 : When the losers were winners

An alliance of populism, liberalism and ultraliberalism will attempt to form a new right-wing government. But the left wing are consoled with having Denmark’s largest party, and a rising – but untested – green ‘alternative’

At one point tonight someone said Venstre lost the election but won the power. And it’s completely right and totally weird. Venstre, the leading liberal opposition party, lost 7.2% percentage points and dropped to 19.5% of the vote. They went from being the largest to the third largest party in Denmark. Now their leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen will – probably – be the next prime minister.

It really doesn’t inspire much hope that he’s the best candidate to lead a right-wing government. He lost the 2011 last election and threw away an enormous lead. Over the past four years he avoided taking the floor in parliament and was the focus of scandal after scandal over his reckless spending of party and public funds. Before that, he attracted international attention for his incompetent handling of the 2009 UN climate conference COP15.

But he has survived and must now bring together a new and untested liberal-populist government. For the biggest winners were also in his blue block, the populist and anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF) who rose 8.8% points to be parliament’s second largest party with 21.1 percent of the vote.

Venstre’s ordinary ally the Conservative Party control a paltry 3.4% of the vote, while libertarian Liberal Alliance (LA) rose 2.5% points to 7.5% of the vote. LA is united with Venstre and Conservatives by their small government, pro business agenda, while DF is an anti-immigration pro-welfare party. In the Ven diagram of interests, they might agree on cutting welfare for immigrants and spending for foreign aid. But on other domestic and economic issues, finding common ground will be hard.

The prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt says she is stepping down after tonight’s defeat, despite increasing her party’s share 1.5% point to 26.3% of the vote. The problem is her coalition partners in the Social Liberal Party (Radikale) and Socialist People’s Party (SF) together lost almost 10% points combined. A strengthening far-left Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) wasn’t enough to offset the loss.

But there is a silver lining on the political left. New political party the Alternative found a place in parliament after winning 4.9 %. Leader and former Radikale culture minister Uffe Elbæk formed the party two years ago as a political project based on several key social values and a vision to transition Denmark to a green economy, increase support for entrepreneurs, and create a new political culture.

Tonight at their party on the Paper Island in Copenhagen, Elbæk and his supporters partied despite the defeat of their political block. Sure, they remain untested and have yet to fully develop their political programme. They may not survive more than one term after the daily grind in parliament wears away at their humanistic ambitions.

But many voters are right to think that climate change and kickstarting a green economy is, on balance, more important than worrying about immigration at a time of unprecedented conflict and displacement of refugees. Alternativet and Elbæk are a welcome addition to parliament.

Much will happen over the coming days, as Venstre leader Rasmussen tries to form a new government. Uniting the right wing will be complicated and awkward and give us plenty to write about over the coming four years. M


By Peter Stanners

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief. Occasional photographer.

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