LOCAL ELECTIONS: Social Democrats surge and populists lose out

The Liberal Party's control over a majority of Denmark's 98 municipalities is in jeopardy, after a disastrous election that saw the Social Democrats secure almost one in three votes nationwide

“Vote Danish.”

So urged Kristian Thulesen Dahl, leader of the Danish People’s Party (DF), ahead of the local elections that the party fought on a platform opposing minority rights.

And voters did vote Danish (did they really have a choice not to?) they just didn’t vote DF. Nationwide DF lost 1.3 percentage points, and had to settle for 8.8 % of the vote. It is the first time that the anti-immigration populists lost ground in an election in almost two decades. While they have wielded huge power in parliament, in supporting right wing governments in exchange for immigration concessions, their predicted breakthrough in Denmark’s 98 municipalities and five regions, has never materialised.

While government coalition leaders the Liberal Party (Venstre) shrank by 3.5 percentage points to 23.1%, the left-wing leaders Social Democrats (Socialdemokratiet) stormed forward, winning 32.4 % of the national vote, up 2.9 percentage points on 2013. They also secured control of four out of five regions – primarily tasked with healthcare – after they gained control of Region Sjælland from Venstre.

These gains and losses will certainly be translated into an increase in Socialdemokratiet mayors across the country, at the expense of Venstre, which currently controls 48 out of 98 municipalities. DF had its sights set on controlling three municipalities, but their waning support put an end to that.

As for the Conservative People’s Party (Konservative), while on a national level they only secured 3.4% of the vote, they equalled DF’s 8.8% in yesterday’s municipal election. However, unlike DF, Konservativer’s support is much more localised in longstanding safe seats across the country, and they look set to keep around eight mayoral positions.

READ MORE: LOCAL ELECTIONS – Copenhagen remains ‘red’

How do we explain that DF earned less than half the support on the local level compared to their national result in 2015? One reason could be weaker political relationships within the respective municipalities, which are needed to form a majority and distribute control of powerful political positions. For example, while Socialdemokratiet won a slightly larger share of the vote in 2013 and were the biggest party locally, Venstre managed to secure control of 48 municipalities, 15 more than Socialdemokratiet, by forming alliances with other, primarily right wing, parties.

But it could also have to do with DF’s primary focus on immigration didn’t appeal to voters. Municipalities and regions have enormous power over local welfare, from schools and day care, to hospitals and transport infrastructure. Voters who may chosen DF on a national level, may have decided that supporting left-wing pro-welfare parties would be a more wise decision. Not least because successive right wing governments have inflicted deep cuts on public services and unemployment benefits – cuts that wouldn’t have been possible if DF hadn’t supported these right wing governments.

The full results and distribution of power will take a few days to play out. Pick up a copy of the December issue for a full rundown. A summary of the Copenhagen election will be online later today.


By Peter Stanners

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

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