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The “comeback kid” Lars Løkke Rasmussen at the center of Danish politics – POLITICO

COPENHAGEN — Danish politics has a new kingmaker, if not a new king.

As Danes head to the polls on Tuesday, former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s new party has surged to third place in the polls – it is set to win 21 of the 179 parliamentary seats on offer.

But more importantly, neither left-wing nor right-wing parties would likely be able to form a government without Rasmussen’s backing – giving him a decisive word on whether the ‘red’ or ‘ blue” of the allied parties could obtain an overall majority. in the election.

Rasmussen is using this position to push for a centrist government with parties on both sides of the divide, an effort that could potentially upend the post-war national political order.

Some have even suggested that he could use his kingmaker position to introduce himself as the new prime minister. A recent survey show that 27% of Danish voters would prefer Rasmussen as the new head of state, second only to current Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

“Just a few weeks ago we didn’t even know if Rasmussen would be able to get enough votes with his new party, the Moderates. Now he is one of the leading figures in this election campaign,” said Thomas Larsen, political analyst at public radio station Radio4.

“He is also known in Danish politics as the comeback child, like Bill Clinton in the United States,” Larsen added.

Rasmussen, who is considered a tough negotiator and an experienced politician, was Prime Minister from 2009 to 2011 and then from 2015 to 2019 for the Danish Liberal Party, Bellied. But he quit the party in 2021 after a disappointing election result the year before and the leadership’s reluctance to embrace a more centrist agenda.

With his new party, he hopes to form a centrist government with Frederiksen’s Social Democratic Party to circumvent more extreme political views on both sides.

Rasmussen says the need for a centrist government is underscored by the prospect of energy shortages, runaway inflation and war in Ukraine, which took on more urgency with the sabotage last month of two pipelines carrying fuel. gas from Russia to Germany via Danish waters. Frederiksen said she was also in favor of such a constellation.

The competition

Rasmussen’s return to the political scene was facilitated by the poor performance of his main competitors in the polls.

Although Frederiksen’s Social Democratic Party is expected to remain the largest, it has waned in popularity in recent months, with many Danes questioning its involvement in recent scandals. This follows a coronavirus-related illegal cull of the country’s mink population in 2020, as well as fallout from the arrest of Denmark’s intelligence chief.

The blue parties on the other side of the line are not doing much better.

For weeks, polls have shown that Søren Pape Poulsen, leader of Denmark’s conservatives, would be one of Frederiksen’s main competitors to become Denmark’s next prime minister.

Breaking with tradition, Poulsen announced that he would stand for election as a candidate for prime minister, alongside Frederiksen and Liberal leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen. Previously, blue bloc parties had worked together to back the leader of the Liberals as prime minister if they won a majority in the general election.

But Poulsen stumbled in the polls after revelations that her now ex-husband’s claims that he was Jewish and related to a former president of the Dominican Republic were false.

Rasmussen’s former party, the Liberals, has struggled in recent years to recover after a series of internal crises, including the departure of several key members, and is expected to lose 20 seats. One such member is former immigration minister Inger Støjberg, who launched a new party, the Danish Democrats, less than a year after she was sentenced to two months in prison for ordering the illegal separation of refugee couples.

“The left and right blocs are increasingly seeing Rasmussen as a threat and have really started attacking him in the past week,” Larsen said.

Clearly, this will be a tough coalition negotiation, according to Steffen Hjaltelin, a former campaign adviser to Rasmussen and craftsman of several Liberal Party election campaigns.

“The first thing I expect will happen if Frederiksen needs the votes of the moderates is that Frederiksen will offer Rasmussen a key post in his government, either as foreign minister or as finance minister,” he said. he declared.

“Faced with this scenario, the other two major parties, the liberals and the conservatives, would be more than willing to offer him the post of prime minister in a coalition with them,” Hjaltelin added.

This would put both Rasmussen and the radical right parties in a difficult situation, in which they will have to show their true colors.

“The moderates were created, among other things, to keep the radical right out of all influence. But to become Prime Minister, he now needs their support,” said Hjaltelin. “And the radical right will have to change their positions and support a party created to keep them from influence. It won’t be easy.”

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