Denmark could soon have its youngest-ever prime minister, as voters look set to pick a left-leaning government led by a woman promising more welfare, higher taxes and tougher rules for banks.
Most polls point to a victory for the Social Democrats, which are poised to oust the centre-right government of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in Wednesday’s election.
The Social Democrats, a party with strong backing in the trade union movement, have led 20 of Denmark’s 34 post-war cabinets. Their 41-year-old leader, Mette Frederiksen, has restored the party’s fortunes by combining a traditional palette of left-wing pledges with a more restrictive approach to immigration. That’s proved key in helping her draw voters away from the populist Danish People’s Party on which Rasmussen has relied.
The 55-year-old Rasmussen has recently made clear he wants to break away from his traditional allies. He says that could include forming a government with the Social Democrats, though Frederiksen was quick to dismiss such an alliance.
But Wednesday’s election might be a rare case in which Denmark is left with an inconclusive result as traditional political groupings are abandoned, opening the door to new coalitions that may require protracted talks to forge.
Here’s what you need to know about Denmark’s election
Rasmussen, whose Venstre party means “Left” in Danish and which is referred to as the Liberal Party in the English-speaking world, has pledged 69 billion kronur ($10.4 billion) in extra spending for the welfare state. His efforts to form a German-style “ grand coalition” with the Social Democrats have met with opposition from his own party.
The most likely post-election scenario sees Frederiksen’s party governing on its own and seeking parliamentary support from conservatives on topics like immigration and on other left-wing parties for everything else, according to Kasper M. Hansen, a politics professor at the University of Copenhagen.
There are a total of 13 parties running in the election, including two new nationalist movements — the anti-Muslim Hard Line of Rasmus Paludan and the free-market New Right of Pernille Vermund — which are seen splintering the anti-immigration vote and weakening Rasmussen’s ally, the Danish People’s Party.
Here’s a guide to the main parties vying for seats in Copenhagen’s 179-member parliament:
Ideology: center-left progressive
Leader: Mette Frederiksen
Campaign priorities: Higher spending on health and education, pension
Seats (2015 election result): 46 (26.3%)
Key fact: Founded in 1871, the party dominated Danish politics for much of the 20th century
Ideology: socialist, environmentalist
Leader: Pernille Skipper (political spokeswoman)
Campaign priorities: social equality, a stronger welfare state, leave NATO
Seats: 14 (7.8%)
Key fact: the party was founded in 1989 through the merger of several communist and socialist parties
Ideology: environmentalism, pro-EU
Leader: Uffe Elbaek
Campaign priorities: combating climate change
Seats: 10 (4.8%)
Key fact: The party was founded in 2013 following a split from the Social Liberals
Social Liberal Party
Ideology: centrist, pro-European
Leader: Morten Ostergaard
Campaign priorities: tax reform, pro-immigration policies
Seats: 8 (4.6%)
Key fact: The party was once headed by Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner
Socialist People’s Party
Ideology: socialism, environmentalism
Leader: Pia Olsen Dyhr
Campaign priorities: fighting inequality
Seats: 7 (4.2%)
Key fact: The party was founded in 1959 after splitting from the local Communist Party
Danish People’s Party
Ideology: anti-immigration, nationalist, social conservative
Leader: Kristian Thulesen Dahl
Campaign priorities: law and order, welfare spending, preserve Danish heritage
Seats: 37 (21.1%)
Key fact: The party was the pariah of Danish politics until the start of the new millennium
Ideology: liberalism, free-market
Leader: Lars Lokke Rasmussen
Campaign priorities: Extra spending on welfare and defense spending; no tax increases
Seats: 34 (19.5%)
Key fact: Founded in 1870 as “The Left” in opposition to the pro-aristocracy conservatives
Leader: Anders Samuelsen
Campaign priorities: cut taxes, reduce bureaucracy
Seats: 13 (7.5%)
Key fact: Founded in 2007, the party is part of the incumbent center-right coalition
Conservative People’s Party
Leader: Soren Pape Poulsen
Campaign priorities: abolish corporate tax, reduce bureaucracy, improve the national health service
Seats: 6 (3.4%)
Key fact: Founded in 1916, the party is a member of the European People’s Party