EU elections: Danish centrists perform strongly as nationalists dealt huge defeat

A number of centrist Danish parties have increased their seats in the European Parliament, while the anti-immigration and EU-sceptic Danish People’s Party suffered a heavy defeat.

EU elections: Danish centrists perform strongly as nationalists dealt huge defeat
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen celebrates the EU election result with Liberal lead candidate Morten Løkkegaard. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The Venstre (Liberal) party, led domestically by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, increased its seats from two to four, including a new seat which will be allocated to Denmark after the UK leaves the EU due to Brexit.

With a vote share of 23.5 percent, the Liberals are the largest Danish party in the EU parliament.

Two centre-left parties, the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre) and Socialist People’s Party, both moved from one to two seats, while the left-wing Red Green Alliance also gained a seat.

The Social Democrats increased their vote share by 2.4 percent and remain on three seats, while the Conservatives also retain their single seat despite taking 2.9 percent fewer votes than at the last election.

The biggest losers of the night by far were the populist Danish People’s Party, who took over a quarter of all the votes at the previous election in 2014. With 10.7 percent of the vote this time around, the party has suffered losses of 15.9 percent and goes from four seats in the parliament down to one.

Meanwhile, the far-left People’s Movement Against the EU (Folkebevægelsen mod EU), which has consistently held a seat in previous elections, also saw its vote share more than halved, from 8.1 percent to 3.7 percent, and loses its spot in the parliament.

All figures come from public broadcaster DR’s most recent update of the voting count, made in the early hours of Monday.

“All signs suggest that we have had the best EU election ever,” Rasmussen said in his election speech on Sunday night, Danish media including Politiken reported.

Danes return to the polls in nine days’ time to vote in the country’s June 5th general election.

“This is a huge victory for the Liberals, to be able to pull out this victory ten days before a general election,” election researcher and professor Kasper Møller Hansen of Copenhagen University told DR.

Rasmussen found it difficult to contain his delight at the result on Sunday.

“Denmark is a wonderful country. It is not a perfect country, but it is the best there is. We can do much on our own, but not everything,” he said according to Ritzau.

Danish People’s Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl accepted the defeat but said it would not have “consequences” for his party.

“We must accept this and battle on. It won’t have any consequences in the party,” Dahl said to Ritzau.

“We run on the politics we have, and voters must make their choice. Of course I feel a responsibility for this downturn. But I don’t know whether we should have done things differently,” he said.

The results in Denmark are in contrast with a number of other EU countries, including the UK, where Nigel Farage’s new anti-EU Brexit Party took 30 percent of the votes while establishment parties the Conservatives and Labour suffered crushing defeats.

In Italy and France nationalists performed strongly, while establishment parties also took a hit in Germany, with Green parties surging. Neighbouring Sweden saw the governing Social Democrats clinch top spot with the far right gaining ground.

READ ALSO: Five things we've learned from the European elections

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Erna Solberg interview: ‘Benefits of Norway’s relationship with EU far outweigh downsides

In an interview with the organisation Faces of Democracy, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg answers questions on the country's relationship with the EU, right-wing populist movements and Norway's future role in the world.

Erna Solberg interview: 'Benefits of Norway's relationship with EU far outweigh downsides
Erna Solberg with Faces of Democracy's Sven Lilienström. Photo: Rune Hammerstad


Q. Norway is not an EU member state. However, it is part of the European Economic Area – which has existed since 1994 – and is also a Schengen member state. How important to your country is a close partnership with the EU?

It's very important from an economic perspective. We conducted a major review of the EEA Agreement – our economic link – through a major commission that was, I believe, established ten years ago. The commission’s findings showed that the benefits are much greater than the problems. While there are downsides to the type of relationship we have with the EU, the benefits far outweigh them.

These benefits are primarily close cooperation for businesses and enhanced market opportunities. Norway, and in fact all of the Scandinavian countries, have accepted the most labour migrants from other European countries. But workers from the EU countries have contributed to the economic growth of our country. I think this is the reason why EU labourmigration hasn’t created the same kind of friction as in other countries.

There are challenges in the labour market; there are challenges with shady businesses that do not comply with our labour market rules and regulations and therefore compete unfairly’, we need to address the problem of social dumping, which is an area where we would like to see closer European cooperation to stop border-crossing crime.

Still, the overall picture is that the EEA agreement ensures opportunities for our businesses, it maintains welfare standards for our society and it boosts job creation. It also ensures a high degree of cooperation between the Norwegian non-governmental sector and the non-governmental sectors of other countries. This is especially true of the Central European countries. This is because our financial contribution through the EEA and Norway grants foster closer cooperation between organizations in the former Eastern European countries.


Right-wing populist movements are gaining ground in parts of Europe and are also present in Norway. Do you consider the populists to be more of a risk or rather a potentially corrective force for democracy in your country?-

I believe that you should always have respect for people’s votes and opinions. In my government, we have a faction that is to the right of the conservative party, or more liberalist-leaning. In my opinion however, this is not the sort of right-wing political faction that exists in other countries, although it has traditionally been stricter on migration than other parties in Norway. But, being a liberalist faction, it naturally tends towards lower taxation and the party is absolutely within the spectrum of European mainstream politics.

One disturbing thing is hate speech in social media. This is causing changes, not so much in politics, but by creating a toxic debate climate in Norwegian social media. This is challenging because we are seeing increased Islamophobia and increased scepticism towards migration, linked with anti-climate policies and EU scepticism. All of this sometimes gives rise to a very toxic debate in social media.

Yesterday we had a large civil rally aimed at stopping hate speech and to encourage more moderate discussions in social media. I’m not sure that it will help, but it does give stimulus to those who want a more respectful form of debate on Facebook and other social media sites.

According to the current “Global Gender Gap Report”, Norway ranks second in terms of the gender pay gap. What can other countries learn from Norway to help them close their gender pay gaps?

There are different reasons why we have a narrower gender pay gap. We have a system of laws and regulations and if you consider women and men in the same type of jobs, they are mostly equally paid. But we still have a difference between different sectors that require the same level of responsibilities and education or training; there is still a gap here. Still, the true gap facing us is between different sectors. 

But I do think that having unions that focus on equal pay is important. We have an ombudsman system and an anti-discrimination act that allows workers to complain to their ombudsman or anti-discrimination committee that they are not receiving equal pay.

Companies in Norway are also obliged to report on their anti-discrimination activities to ensure that equal rights are observed. All of this places the focus of business thinking on asking why their payrolls exhibit different pay for men and women. 

Ms. Prime Minister, your second term in office ends in 2021. Which issues are still on your political and personal agenda and what is your vision for Norway’s future role in the world?

That’s quite a question! In Norway we’ve been through a situation where we have experienced an economic downturn because of the drop in the oil price. Our economy showed that it had the strength and resilience to bounce back after an increased unemployment and we have now become more competitive in the oil and gas sector.

The great challenge facing Norway is that the oil and gas sector will contribute less to our growth because our oil and gas investments and production are currently peaking, so output will be reduced in the future. Oil and gas will, however, remain a major industry in Norway for a long time – but that's not where we are going to keep focusing.

So we will be facing the same issues as most other European countries. How can we create more jobs in a more competitive and globalized world? How can we make sure that we are creating new jobs if we will be losing a small number of jobs every year in the oil and gas sector? The solution is about education. It's about investment in research & development. It's about the framework for businesses and start-ups in our country.

The interview with the Norwegian Prime Minister was first published on the site Faces of Democracy. You can read the full version HERE.