Saturday, February 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Denmark forms broad coalition government after long negotiations

Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Wednesday proudly presented a new cabinet in collaboration with the Liberals, marking the first time in decades that the two political wings have united.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, leader of Denmark's second-biggest party, the Liberals, told Danish broadcaster DR just a few weeks ago that he had a hard time imagining a broad coalition government when Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen invited him to join political negotiations on a collaboration with the Social Democrats.

When Frederiksen called for national elections in October, she expressed a wish to form a government "across the political center." Her stated goal came in the wake of state investigations into her cabinet´s unconstitutional order to kill all minks in November 2020 due to fear of a new coronavirus mutation. She also faced a looming vote of no confidence from her own party triggered by a plan to establish a national immigration reception center in Rwanda instead of on Danish soil.

Those were just some reasons why Ellemann-Jensen had sworn not to swing his party´s 23 parliamentary seats to side with the Social Democrats.

But on Wednesday, the Liberal party leader stood next to Frederiksen and the leader of a new political party – the Moderates, who hold 16 seats in parliament – to announce a new broad coalition government that will control a total of 89 out of 179 parliamentary seats.

The three-party coalition was formed after what has been the longest political negotiations in recent Danish history, taking 42 days to reach an agreement. Yet it is also the first time since the 1970s that Denmark will have a government with parties from both the Democratic and the Liberal factions.

As predicted, the various crises in Europe and Denmark took center stage in the Nov. 1 general election. Politicians have promised voters they will find solutions to mitigate soaring inflation, uncertainty about energy prices and security questions triggered by the war in Ukraine and the recent sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines.

In an interview with DR, historian Niels Wium Olesen explained how broad political collaborations are often formed during times of crisis.

“It is based on a consideration that national forces should unite and that the politicians must put past disagreements and mutual dislikes aside to solve the country´s problems jointly,” he said.

The new Danish government presented the foundation for several labor and education reforms in Wednesday's press conference. Even though Denmark is internationally known for its strong economy and extensive welfare sector, it has taken heavy financial blows from years of Covid-19 aid packages, the ongoing recession and the need to help vulnerable groups and companies.

For that reason, the Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates have agreed to close job centers, abolish one government holiday to boost labor production and cut half of the master´s programs at Danish universities from two years to one. 

However, they simultaneously promised tax reductions, higher salaries for certain public employees and inflation aid packages for financially vulnerable families with kids and those who use gas and wood pellets to heat their homes.

The coalition also wants to raise the bar for the highest tax bracket, which means that several income groups get to keep more of their earnings. That move was an apparent giveaway to Ellemann-Jensen and his Liberal backers.

Despite the new government´s claim to have an ambitious climate action plan – including new carbon dioxide taxes on farming activities and flights, and a goal of climate neutrality by 2045 – the political opposition is highly critical.

Mai Villadsen, leader of Red-Green Alliance, has called the new government "a huge mistake" and said the three-party coalition does not consider the climate a key political priority. Her party is just one of several left-wing parties that either left or were asked to leave government negotiations over the last few weeks because they saw it impossible to find common ground with the Liberals. 

The new government will reveal its ministers on Thursday.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...