Danish PM calls election for June 5

Copenhagen (AFP) –


Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen on Tuesday called a general election for June 5, with opinion polls suggesting a left-wing opposition bloc will kick his centre-right coalition out of office.

Rasmussen, whose minority government relied on the informal support in parliament of the far-right Danish People's Party, has passed a string of laws tightening asylum and immigration rules.

"I want to use all of my strength, my capabilities and my experience to continue to lead Denmark. And I ask Danes to re-elect me in the legislative elections to be held on June 5," Rasmussen said in parliament.

His four-year term ends on June 17 and he was required to hold legislative elections before then.

The latest opinion polls suggest the opposition left-wing bloc, headed by the Social Democrats, will win 54 percent of votes compared to 46 percent for Rasmussen and his right-wing bloc.

The right-wing has struggled in recent polls amid voter apathy and an erosion in support for the far-right.

The Danish People's Party's longstanding anti-immigration line has now been broadly adopted by most political parties, including the Social Democrats.

Observers suggest that if the Social Democrats were to emerge as the biggest party, they would likely form a minority government that would cooperate with the right-wing bloc on immigration issues and with the left on other policies.

- Changing political climate -

The Social Democrats could also reach out to Danish People's Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl, who last year hailed the left party's shift towards a more restrictive immigration policy.

That change has been eyed warily by other left-wing parties, who are yet to pledge their full support for Social Democrats leader Mette Frederiksen.

A former employment minister who later took over the justice portfolio, she presented proposals last year to send "non-Western" foreigners and "non ethnic Danes" to UN camps in Africa.

The anti-immigrant rhetoric, first introduced by the far-right, is now commonly used by all parties.

"The political climate has been anti-immigration for years. The Danish People's Party's agenda has been adopted by mainstream parties," Anders Widfeldt, a lecturer at Scotland's University of Aberdeen who specialises in Nordic politics, told AFP.

In this climate, two new far-right parties, pushing agendas to the right of the Danish People's Party, have emerged and are vying for seats in the election.

One of them, the New Right, which promotes libertarian economic policies, has called for even tighter immigration rules.

The other party, Stram Kurs which means "Hard Line" in English, is headed by Rasmus Paludan, a vehemently anti-Muslim provocateur already convicted of inciting racial hatred and blocked by Facebook.

- The end of Rasmussen ? -

For Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, 54, an election defeat would in all likelihood put an end to his 25-year career in Danish politics.

At the head of the centre-right Liberal Party since 2009, he has served twice as prime minister, from 2009 to 2011 and 2015 to 2019, interrupted by a four-year Social Democratic government.

"Lars Lokke Rasmussen knows that if he loses he will also be finished as leader of his party," said Christine Cordsen, political analyst at public television DR.

Yet under his leadership, Denmark's economy has thrived. It is expected to grow by 1.8 percent in 2019 against 1.3 percent in the eurozone.

The country also has almost full employment, with a jobless rate of just 3.7 percent in March compared to 7.7 percent in the eurozone.

The Danish parliament, the Folketing, has 179 seats, including two each for its autonomous territories Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Parties must win at least two percent of votes to be represented in parliament.

Voter turnout is traditionally high in Denmark. In 2015, 85.9 percent of the 4.5 million eligible voters cast their ballots.