Denmark’s Social Democrats to be only ‘red bloc’ party in new centrist government

The centre-left Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre), which was strongly tipped to be part of a new coalition Danish government, quit talks on Tuesday citing policy differences over climate and children’s welfare.

Denmark's Social Democrats to be only 'red bloc' party in new centrist government
Social Liberal leader Martin Lidegaard said his party would not join the new Danish government due to difference over issues including climate. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Social Liberal political leader Martin Lidegaard told Danish media that the centre-left party was not satisfied with the level of compromise shown by other parties over children and youth welfare as well as climate.

“Our last-minute ‘no thanks’ to joining the government is because we could not reach the same level of ambition when it came to Denmark’s future,” Lidegaard told broadcaster DR in reference to the political areas in question.

“We think we can have more influence by being outside in a good partnership with the new government and by trying to push ambitions upwards on these areas,” he said.

Political observers in Denmark expect a government to be announced within the next few days. Talks have been ongoing for weeks since the November 1st election.

The exit of the Social Liberals leaves the Liberal (Venstre) party and the Moderate party as the potential partners in coalition with the Social Democrats, who are led by acting prime minister Mette Frederiksen.

Apart from the Social Democrats, it is now certain that all parties from Denmark’s traditional ‘red bloc’ of allied parties on the left will be outside of the new government, despite the one-seat majority won by the bloc at the election.

The Social Democrats, Social Liberals and Moderates all stated before the election that they wanted to break from the traditional ‘bloc’ system of opposing right and left-wing factions and create a centre coalition. The Liberals were against the plan before the election but have since changed their stance.

The policies of a coalition of the Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates are as yet unannounced, but the Liberal party is expected to be given considerable concessions on tax cuts, a policy not usually favoured by the Social Democrats, traditionally a pro-labour party.

The Moderates are led by Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Frederiksen’s predecessor as PM who is also a former leader of the centre-right Liberals.

READ ALSO: PROFILE: Mette Frederiksen, the face of Denmark’s anti-immigration left

Lidegaard said that the Social Liberals would be neither an opposition party nor a “support party” (støtteparti in Danish) to the new government, meaning they will not prop up the government if it has a parliamentary minority.

Because Denmark operates a system of negative parliamentarism, a government can be formed provided a majority in parliament does not oppose it.

In either case, the three remaining parties in the talks can in fact muster a de facto majority without the participation of the Social Liberals.

‘Support party’ arrangements are common in Danish politics because the large number of parties means that minority governments or minority coalitions are not an unlikely occurrence.

Prior to the election, the Social Democrats governed as a minority propped up by three smaller left-wing ‘support’ parties, including the Social Liberals.

READ ALSO: Centre-left party quits talks to form centrist Danish government

“I have always dreamed of a [centre coalition] government. But in the end, you must consider how to do the most for the climate, children and our entire education system. We can probably do that best from the outside,” Lidegaard told DR.

The Social Liberals have demanded that the Social Democrats scrap plans to open an asylum processing facility in Rwanda, a position the latter party has refused to move on.

Lidegaard said the irreconcilable differences in the talks were not over Rwanda, however. An agreement on the issue has been reached, he said.

A policy agreement for a new government could be presented on Wednesday, according to the Social Liberal leader.

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Denmark’s new government defends rare left-right alliance

Denmark's Social Democratic prime minister and the leader of the main right-wing party on Wednesday defended their new left-right coalition government, a rare alliance last seen 45 years ago.

Denmark's new government defends rare left-right alliance

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and her allies on the left won a majority in a November 1st general election, but she chose instead to form a government with a small new centrist party and her traditional rival on the right, the Liberals.

“We are joining forces not because we couldn’t do otherwise, because we could have done something else”, Frederiksen told reporters at a press conference with the other two party leaders.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What are the main policies of the new Danish government?

“But together we have made the decision to join forces. We choose each other at this point in our history,” she added.

Frederiksen is expected to present her cabinet on Thursday.

Danish media have described the coalition, which includes the centrist Moderates party recently founded by former prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, as historic.

The Social Democrats and Liberals have only governed together once before, for just over a year in 1978-1979.

The head of the Liberals, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, faced the toughest questioning at the press conference, after campaigning during the election to head a right-wing government and rejecting any notion of an alliance with Frederiksen.

“Should I let my pride get in the way… of doing what is right for Denmark?” he replied.

Frederiksen presented the new government’s priorities, which included an acceleration of Denmark’s defence investments after the invasion of Ukraine, and a faster reduction of CO2 emissions. The country now aims to be carbon neutral by 2045 instead of 2050.

The country of 5.9 million now also expects to reach NATO’s budget goal of 2 percent of GDP in 2030 three years earlier than planned.

The country will abolish a public holiday in order to finance the measure.

The new government also announced a tax reform, raising income taxes for the middle class, cutting taxes for high-earners, and introducing a new tax for very high earners.

In a country that has had strict curbs on immigration for the past 25 years, the government also said it would go ahead with previously announced plans to open asylum reception centres outside Europe, possibly in Rwanda, but said it prioritises working with the EU or other European countries on the plan.