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COPENHAGEN – Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen clings to her job after narrowly maintaining a majority in an election that began in the wake of a scandal over her decision to lynch the country’s population of minks.
After an impressive count that initially showed the left-leaning “red bloc” would not achieve a majority, Frederiksen and the parties supporting it are expected to win the 90 seats needed to gain a majority in the 179-seat parliament.
“I am very happy and proud,” Frederiksen said Tuesday night, celebrating the party’s best election result in more than 20 years.
In a political landscape divided between 14 parties, Frederiksen’s Social Democrats and other left-leaning Red Bloc parties took 87 seats, while the rival right-wing “blue bloc” finished with 72 seats. The red bloc also won one seat from the Faroe Islands Autonomous Territory, with another two seats expected from Greenland.
However, a narrow victory for the Red Bloc did not necessarily mean that Frederiksen’s government would survive. Both the Social Democrats and the liberal social parties said they wanted to investigate the possibility of forming a broad coalition between the left and the right to lead the country in difficult times.
Frederiksen confirmed in her victory speech on Tuesday evening that she would seek to form a centrist government. “Many expect there will be chaos, but chaos is the last thing Denmark needs,” she said.
That is why I invite all parties on the sides… to seek cooperation, seek solutions, and assert your influence. We must go through turbulent times safely, and dear Denmark, we must go through turbulent times together.”
Election night was exciting to the end. With only 1 percent of the vote left to be counted, some projections indicated that the red bloc was only a few hundred votes away from reaching 87 seats.
Election night was preceded by an uncharacteristically chaotic and exciting campaign, which at times seemed to herald the ups and downs of the final season of the popular TV political drama Borgen.
Frederiksen’s Social Democrats received 27.5 percent of the vote and 50 seats in Parliament. This put them ahead of Jacob Ellmann Jensen’s liberal party, which received 13.3 percent of the vote, or 24 seats.
Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s new party – the centre-right former prime minister who was defeated by Frederiksen in 2019 – climbed to third place, taking 16 seats.
Opinion polls had indicated in recent weeks that the red and blue bloc would not be able to form a government without Rasmussen’s support, making him indispensable in coalition talks.
He used this stance during the campaign to call for a broad coalition of the more moderate parties from both the red and blue blocs, a move that would upset the country’s post-war political system.
Domestic issues dominated the campaign, from tax cuts and the need to hire more nurses to financial support for Danes amid inflation and rising energy prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Immigration was once a central topic, but it fell off the agenda, in part because the Social Democrats pledged to stay tough on immigration, denying right-leaning parties a potential rallying point.
Despite a number of scandals that rocked Frederiksen’s party, it scored much better than expected in recent polls – rising from 48 seats to 50.
Scandals include a 2020 order to cull all of the country’s farmed mink over fears they might spread a mutated form of the coronavirus, a policy that has decimated Europe’s largest fur exporter.
A committee appointed by parliament said in June that the government lacked legal justification for the execution and had made “extremely misleading” statements when it ordered the closure of the sector.
A left-wing party supporting Frederiksen’s minority government withdrew its support as a result of the report, forcing Frederiksen to call a snap election on Tuesday.
However, its center-right opponents have also lost ground, with Tory leader Søren Pape-Poulsen hurt by exposing the lies told by his ex-husband, and the Liberals riven by internal divisions.
This article has been updated with more details.
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