The Progressive Post

🇩🇰 Europe goes right, Denmark turns left


Ph.D, Director at Thinktank Cevea
Intern, Thinktank Cevea

Compared to 2019, the Social Democratic Party lost one out of four voters in the Danish EP election. But contrary to other countries in Europe, Danish SDP voters took a left turn. The vote for the populist right only increased marginally, and the combined vote of pro-EU parties increased.

The Social Democratic post-election party at Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament, ended before it really began. True, the Danish SDP managed to keep its three seats in the European Parliament, but at the same time it lost one out of four voters. Only 15.6 per cent of voters opted for an SDP candidate, the lowest electoral support for the SDP ever recorded for an EP election. If SDP activists and guests really were looking for a party, they had to take the stairs one floor up at Christiansborg to the Socialist People’s Party (SPP) that is part of the Green group in the European Parliament. By and large, the SPP electoral gains equalled the Social Democrat’s losses. With 17.4 per cent of the vote, the SPP became the largest party. For the first time ever.

Combined, the progressive parties of the Left, mustered around 43 per cent of the vote – the same as five years ago – and they even managed to secure one MEP more than they did in the 2019 election. So even if the SDP was bleeding votes, these flowed toward the progressive left rather than the populist right.

Undoubtedly, part of the reason why the SDP lost so many voters compared to 2019 is the unpopularity of the current Danish government, and troubles on the domestic front once again spilt over on the European one. The SDP also lost ground because it lacked an edge in the debates on the big issues. Most of the parties running for election agreed on high climate ambitions, a stern immigration policy, and a strong pro-Ukraine security policy – the three issues most salient to voters. When so-called valence issues dominate the debates and candidates largely agree on goals and ambitions, voters often become less engaged. The low turnout – 58 per cent in 2024 compared to 66 per cent in 2019 – is an indication of this. In this context, the top SDP candidates failed in mobilising voters and fostering enthusiasm for the SDP.

A mid-term election for an unpopular government

Since December 2022, the Danish SDP has been leading a majority coalition government that includes the new centre party Moderaterne and the old liberal party Venstre. Historically, Venstre has been fighting any SDP-led government and has taken the leadership in centre-right governments. Most observers, as well as voters, see the government as a coalition of somewhat strange bedfellows. At the EP election, the three governing parties got 38 per cent of the vote, just a bit more than the 34 per cent they would muster in the Folketing if there was an election tomorrow, according to recent polls.

The populist Right did not get it right

Contrary to what we have seen in most European countries, enthusiasm for populist right parties was limited at the Danish EP election. The two harshest anti-immigration parties, the Danish Peoples Party and the new Denmark Democrats, got 13.8 per cent of the vote and one additional seat in the EP. This is three per cent more than in 2019, but 13 per cent less than in 2014. Besides, support for outright anti-EU parties actually declined.

There was no big turn to the populist right at the Danish EP election, partially because all parties now seem to agree on a stern immigration policy that strengthens the control of EU borders and does not allow more refugees into Denmark. In fact, no parties argued strongly against this position. Therefore, the populist right failed to mobilise Social Democratic voters on the immigration issue. 

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