A day after incumbent Danish political party Socialdemokraterne secured a one-seat margin in Tuesday’s general election and the right to lead negotiations to form a government, leaders of competing parties criticised the Greenlandic and Faroese members of the national assembly for unduly tipping the electoral balance.
As Danish citizens, residents of Greenland and the Faroe Islands vote in elections to the 179-member Folketing, and the two representatives each country sends to Copenhagen are fully fledged members of the assembly. Yet, unlike Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Denmark has no national assembly of its own, so, in recognition of that fact, the four “North Atlantic” members, as they are known, abstain, by tradition, from voting on bills that apply solely to Denmark.
Yet, after what was the closest election in Danish history, even the tacit support of the North Atlantic members will be decisive in determining the makeup of the next Danish government, since no bloc of parties commands the 90-seats required for a majority without them.
Both of Greenland’s representatives and one of the Faroe Islands’ align with the left-leaning incumbent government. After it became clear on Wednesday that they would nominate Mette Frederiksen, who was prime minister until the election was called in October, to lead negotiations to form a new government, leaders of competing parties suggested that by, giving parties to the left a majority, the North Atlantic members were making it possible for Ms Frederiksen to ignore calls from a large segment of voters for the next government to be a coalition that included centrist parties.
“In Denmark — not the Kingdom of Denmark — there is no majority for the left,” Lars Løkke Rasmussen, a former PM whose newly formed Moderaterne party earned 16 seats by campaigning on a message of ending partisan politics.
Mr Rasmussen’s critique is perhaps predictable: prior to Tuesday’s election result, he had been seen as playing the role of kingmaker in the election negotiations. Yet, there is more to it than being a sore loser: if the North Atlantic members of the Folketing are not factored into the electoral equation, parties to the centre and right hold 88 of the assembly’s seats, against the 87 seats Socialdemokraterne its allies can muster. And, even if the Greenlandic and Faroese MPs are included, the left-leaning parties still represent a minority of the kingdom’s voters, due, in part, to the higher number of representatives per voter in Greenland in the Faroe Islands, compared with voting precincts in Denmark.
The possibility that MPs from Greenland and the Faroe Islands could be used to form a majority after a general election has been brought up in the past. Until now, though, the discussion has been only academic, and one lawmakers — even those complaining this time around — have said they are leery about doing anything about it, since precluding it would require changing the constitution or the status of the North Atlantic members of the Folketing.
“If you include the votes of the North Atlantic MPs, the left has a majority,” Alex Vanopslagh, the leader of Liberal Alliance, a party on the right and a shoo-in for a seat in a centre-right government, said. “If you only count the votes Danes cast, Mette Frederiksen’s majority disappears. But that’s just the way our democratic system is.”
Kevin McGwin, Polar Journal
Featured image: Folketinget / Christoffer Regild
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