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Denmark election: Frederiksen’s government hangs in the balance as it battles for centrist votes

Denmark is holding a national election on Tuesday, expected to change the Scandinavian nation’s political landscape as new parties seek to enter parliament and others see their support dwindle.

Neither the centre-left nor the centre-right is believed to be able to capture the 90-seat majority in the 179-seat Folketing legislature.

That could leave a former prime minister who left his party to create a new one this year as the kingmaker if his votes end up being needed to form a new government.

Domestic issues have dominated the campaign, ranging from tax cuts and a need to hire more nurses to financially supporting Danes amid inflation and soaring energy prices because of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Denmark’s more than four million can choose lawmakers from among 14 parties. At least three politicians are vying to become prime minister.

The contenders for head of government include incumbent Mette Frederiksen, who steered Denmark through the COVID-19 pandemic and teamed up with the opposition to hike Danish defence spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Two centre-right opposition lawmakers — Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the Liberal party leader, and Søren Pape Poulsen, who heads the Conservatives — hope to replace her.

“We are fighting to the end. It will be a close election,” Frederiksen said after voting north of Copenhagen. “I am optimistic but I am not sure of anything.”

Former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen created the new centrist Moderates party in June. According to pre-election polls, his party could get as much as 10% of the vote. 

He has hinted he could see a ruling coalition with the Social Democrats and could also be considered a prime minister candidate.

“I think it will be close,” said Løkke Rasmussen, who served as PM between 2009-2011 and 2015-2019, said as he voted Tuesday in Copenhagen.

Frederiksen has led a minority, one-party Social Democratic government since 2019, when she ousted Løkke Rasmussen.

Two new parties on the centre-right that want to limit immigration are bidding to enter parliament and may push out a third similar group that has had a key role in earlier governments by promoting stricter entry rules.

Among them are the Denmark Democrats, created in June by former hardline immigration minister Inger Støjberg. In 2021, Støjberg was convicted by the rarely-used Impeachment Court for a 2016 order to separate asylum-seeking couples if one of the partners was a minor.

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