Danish PM to form broader government after vote win

Denmark's left-wing Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Wednesday kicked off the process of forming a new, broader government one day after scoring a narrow election victory.

The Social Democrats, the largest party in parliament with 50 of 179 seats and accustomed to leading minority governments, now want to govern across the political divide after Frederiksen secured their best election win since 2001.

"It will be very, very difficult. We don't know if it will be possible, but we will try our utmost", she told a party debate on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister formally presented the resignation of her outgoing government to Queen Margrethe.

The leaders of Denmark's 11 other parties in parliament were each meeting the queen individually on Wednesday before the monarch formally tasks Frederiksen with trying to form a new government.

Frederiksen will then "enter into negotiations to form a broader government and that will probably take a while," political scientist Rune Stubager, a professor at Aarhus University, told AFP.

Her left-wing bloc, which includes five parties plus three seats from the autonomous territories Greenland and the Faroe Islands, won a majority of 90 seats, compared to 73 for the right and far-right, and 16 for the centre.

It was the Social Democrats' best election outcome in two decades, gaining two seats and securing over 27 percent of the vote, and allows Frederiksen to enter negotiations from a position of strength.

Frederiksen's photo-finish win scuppered hopes of former two-time prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who founded a new Moderates party just months earlier, of becoming kingmaker in the new administration.

- Broken dreams -

The Moderates won more than nine percent of votes and Lokke Rasmussen insisted he wanted to be "the bridge" between the left and right, but daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten concluded that "in theory, Mette can do without Lars Lokke".

While the Moderates will be part of negotiations, Stubager expressed doubt that they would be willing to "compromise sufficiently" to secure posts in the cabinet.

A "more realistic" plan for Frederiksen would be a coalition government with various parties on the left, he said.

While Frederiksen's government was largely hailed for handling the Covid-19 pandemic, the election was triggered by the country's so-called mink crisis.

The affair erupted after the government decided in November 2020 to cull the country's 15 million minks over fears of a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus.

The decision turned out to be illegal, and the Social Liberal party propping up Frederiksen's minority government threatened to topple it unless she called early elections to regain voters' confidence.

The Social Liberals paid a price for the gamble, losing nine of their 16 seats and on Wednesday their party leader resigned.

- 'Zero refugees' -

To rule, the Social Democrats will still need to depend on support from the Social Liberals, which has made clear it will not support another minority one-party government.

Broad consensus for Denmark's restrictive migration policy left the issue largely absent from the election campaign, but it could resurge in government negotiations.

Advocating a "zero refugee" policy, the outgoing government had worked on setting up a centre to house asylum seekers in Rwanda while their applications are processed.

The Social Liberals oppose the plan.

"It will be very difficult for the Social Democrats to turn soft or to the left on immigration, because that has been a very pivotal point in their strategy over the past five, six years," Stubager said.

"To give up on that would have dramatic consequences for them."

The far-right has heavily influenced Danish politics in recent decades, but three populist parties together won just 14.4 percent of votes and are not expected to play a key role in the upcoming negotiations.

The anti-immigration Danish People's Party, which hovered above 20 percent a few years ago, fell to 2.6 percent, its worst result since entering parliament in 1998.

A new party founded by former immigration minister Inger Stojberg, the Denmark Democrats, instead won 8.1 percent, on a platform of less centralisation, less influence from Europe and fewer immigrants.