Exit poll points to no clear winner in Danish election

Exit poll points to no clear winner in Danish election

Updated: 2 months, 27 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes, 18 seconds ago

By JAN M. OLSEN
Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Danes voted Tuesday in a parliamentary election that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was forced to call amid the fallout from her government’s contentious decision to cull millions of minks as a pandemic response measure.

An exit poll published by broadcaster TV2 after polls closed showed the center-left bloc led by Frederiksen’s Social Democrats would not get enough votes for a majority in Parliament, but neither would the center-right opposition.

The exit poll, carried out by the Megafon research institute for TV2, suggested the new Moderates party led by former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen would hold the balance of power.

The cull and chilling images of mass graves of minks have haunted Frederiksen since 2020 and eventually led to cracks in the center-left bloc.

The 44-year-old now hopes to continue to govern in a broader alliance that would also include opposition parties, an idea so far rejected by opposition leaders Jakob Ellemann-Jensen of the Liberals and Søren Pape Poulsen of the Conservatives, both who are running as candidates for prime minister in a center-right government. The TV2 poll gave the Social Democrats 25%, which means they remain Denmark’s biggest party.

Denmark may be a small, tranquil country known for having some of the happiest people on Earth, but its politics is filled with intrigue that will be familiar to fans of the fictional Danish TV drama series “Borgen.”

With no single party or bloc likely to get the votes needed to form a government on their own, the next government was likely to emerge from post-election backroom talks in which former PM Løkke Rasmussen could emerge as a central player.

A two-time government leader who lost the 2019 election to Frederiksen and abandoned the center-right Liberal party following an internal power struggle, Løkke Rasmussen formed his own party in the political center. Officially launched just four months ago, the Moderates got 9% according to the TV2 exit poll, which would put them in the position of kingmaker.

The poll was based on between 7,000 and 8,500 in-person and telephone interviews of people who had voted at polling stations Tuesday or sent advance ballots. The margin of error was 5 percentage points.

Another exit poll by public broadcaster DR showed a similar result.

Løkke Rasmussen has refused to say whether he would lend his support to either side, but has hinted he could see his party in a coalition spanning the left-right divide. Given his reputation as a strong negotiator, some analysts believe Løkke Rasmussen could even emerge as the prime minister of a coalition government.

Denmark’s more than 4 million voters could choose among over 1,000 candidates — the most ever — from 14 parties. Four of the 179 seats in the Danish legislature, Folketinget, are reserved for the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, which are autonomous Danish territories.

Concerns about rising inflation and energy prices linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine and a shortage of nurses in the public health care system were key themes in election campaigns.

“What I feel is important and is a worry to many are the soaring prices, whether it be electricity, bread or gasoline,” said Inge Bjerre Hansen, 82, after casting her vote in Copenhagen. “My son is reducing the number of his visits because it has become expensive to fill the tank (of his car).”

Unlike in previous elections, immigration has received little attention. Denmark has some of Europe’s strictest immigration laws and there is broad agreement among the major parties to keep it that way.

That and internal squabbles help explain the collapse of the populist Danish People’s Party, which spearheaded Denmark’s crackdown on immigration two decades ago. Once polling over 20%, the party was set to record its worst parliamentary election result since its creation in 1995, with around 3% of the vote, according to the TV2 exit poll.

The Danish People’s Party faced competition for nationalist voters from new right-wing parties. Among them are the Denmark Democrats, created in June by former hardline immigration minister Inger Støjberg. In 2021, Støjberg was convicted by the rarely used Impeachment Court for a 2016 order to separate asylum-seeking couples if one of the partners was a minor.

She was eligible to run for office again after serving her 60-day sentence. The TV2 exit poll showed her party getting 7%.

Frederiksen, who became Denmark’s youngest prime minister when she took office at 41 more than three years ago, teamed up with the opposition to hike NATO-member Denmark’s defense spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Her steadfast leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic was partly overshadowed by the mink-culling episode.

The decision to slaughter up to 17 million minks to protect humans from a mutation of the coronavirus was taken in haste and without the required legislation in place. It dealt a devastating blow to Danish mink farmers, even though there was no evidence the mutated virus found among some minks was more dangerous than other strains.

A Parliament-appointed commission in June criticized the Social Democratic government’s handling of the issue. That led one of the center-left parties backing Frederiksen in Parliament to threaten a no-confidence vote, which prompted her to call the election earlier this month.

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Associated Press journalists Karl Ritter in Stockholm, and Aleksandar Furtula and Anders Kongshaug in Copenhagen contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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