Mette Frederiksen hot after winning 2022 elections.

  • Frederiksen’s Social Democrats and the centre-left coalition won the national elections.
  • 2022’s Danish elections have solidified Frederiksen’s leadership.
  • The ongoing war in Ukraine is changing Danish and EU’s security commitments.

Why is Frederiksen hot?

Answer: The recent victory in the 2022 elections have strengthened Frederiksen’s leadership.

Danish elections this month saw Mette Frederiksen’s Social Democrats obtain more than a quarter of the vote (27.5%), making them by far the most voted party in Denmark. This result allows Frederiksen to put a pandemic-era mink scandal finally behind her during which her government ordered the killing of 15 million mink to prevent the spread of covid. 

Both demographics and financial issues were key to Frederiksen’s campaign. In recent years, the total fertility rate has been below necessary to ensure generational turnover, while Denmark received approximately 40,000 asylum applications during the past five years. At the same time, Denmark devotes slightly more than 30% of its GDP to social spending, one of the highest levels in the OECD countries. The shrinking labour force, social integration and productivity are overburdening this model. 

Another key point of her campaign was climate policy. In the last few decades, Denmark has reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by half; and almost 62% of Danish people are in favour of stricter government measures. This point was key for Frederiksen’s re-election. For instance, Frederiksen’s government struck a deal in parliament for a goal to cut emissions by 70%  by 2030.

Although the Social Democrats dominate the Folketing, their majority is slim, and Frederiksen must negotiate with the opposition, centre-right, or with the Moderates. These seats will determine the future Danish government and its policies. The leader handed in her resignation as Prime Minister. She has confirmed talks with the Liberal Party to form a new government, scrapping two former supporting left-wing parties (the Red-Green Alliance and the Alternative). 

The main challenge for Frederiksen will be keeping a delicate balance with her traditional left-wing allies and keeping a stable executive with the main opposition party on key topics such as foreign workers, ongoing inflation, the limitation on tax rates and the healthcare system.

While the electoral result was tight due to a number of scandals that rocked Frederiksen’s party, Frederiksen is hot as her party obtained the best election result in more than 20 years and her popularity as a figure on the Danish political stage. 

Who is changing Frederiksen’s temperature?

Answer: Her previous mandate led to popular satisfaction with Danish politics, and consolidated Frederiksen’s leadership.

Being in the former government, Frederiksen and the Social Democrats were able to reap the benefits of their policies, despite the pandemic outbreak and its political scandals. 

In recent years, the Social Democrats as well as other mainstream parties have supported and pushed further tightening of an already restrictive immigration system. Frederiksen took this a step further when in June 2022, the Danish parliament voted to give the government a mandate to establish internment camps to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda while their applications are processed. Her government has also revoked residence permits for Syrians arriving from regions it considers safe. This decision has sparked criticism in the EU; despite this, Frederiksen has not changed her decision, earning her electorate’s favour and leading the way for the re-election.

Overall Frederiksen’s success is attributed to keeping consistency and an ability to create consensus in Parliament done well to achieve what she has with her time in office, but challenges on the economic, health care and immigration policies will test her future policies.

What is driving Frederiksen?

Answer: Prime Minister Frederiksen attempts to protect Danish interests and bolster new diplomatic alliances.

The Danish centre-left victory comes after socialist parties also won elections in Finland maintaining a left-wing bloc in the EU north, despite the Swedish right wing’s victory. Frederiksen is the youngest prime minister in Danish history and the second woman to become Prime Minister. She aims to boost welfare spending and tackle climate issues as two of her main priorities. 

At the EU level, Frederiksen has maintained Denmark’s traditional conservative approach towards EU sovereignty. On the one hand, Frederiksen has concluded that NATO cannot fully be trusted; consequently, most Danish people voted in favour of taking part in EU security policy, scrapping a 30-year opt-out. 

On the other hand, the establishment of internment camps in Rwanda for asylum seekers has attracted controversy within the international community and received considerable backlash from the EU, as well as from the United Nations (UN) and its High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This will make some changes within the EU’s immigration policy.

The EU’s immigration policy is based on two documents: articles 79 and 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and  Dublin III regulation. These documents ensure that a refugee may only apply for asylum in the country where they entered the EU. This new Danish law means that those who receive refugee status will  be granted protection in a third country outside of the EU, not in Denmark.

Another key policy for Mette Frederiksen to focus on is the Arctic Council, as the Arctic’s resources became more valuable. Russia, Canada, the US, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and recently, China kept a frosty competition to profit from this region. While Greenland and the Faroe Islands have considerable autonomy within the kingdom, Denmark is responsible for their defence. One of Mette Frederiksen’s goals has been ensuring a peaceful Arctic. For this, Frederiksen has increased defence spending in the Arctic amid concerns that an increasing split between NATO, Russia and China could scale up tensions in this region.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised awareness across Europe. The recent blast on the NordStream 1 and 2 pipelines has skyrocketed concerns regarding Nordic security. Thus, this will imply a greater role for Frederiksen in EU security. 

The Arctic region has become extremely vital due to its energy resources and new trade routes. This area will be pivotal for the EU and NATO members to decrease EU dependence on Russian energy. This could diminish Russia’s leverages against the EU and NATO. Consequently, a greater Danish implication in the EU will lead to a greater EU and NATO involvement in the Arctic, and thus ensuring a peaceful Arctic, one of Denmark’s core interests.
Frederiksen has also been keeping close ties with the U.S., as both countries share the concerns regarding China’s greater role within the Arctic. China tried to get a greater share in mining and infrastructure projects in Greenland, such as the Kuannersuituranium mining project and the Isua iron ore project, which were put on hold or terminated at the preliminary stage.

What does this mean for you?

Answer: Danish election results ease tensions regarding European unity.

The recent electoral results in Italy and in Sweden raised concerns regarding the popularity of right wing political parties and governments that are critical of EU’s policies. Italy was the latest addition to this club after Poland, Hungary and Sweden. Over recent years, there has been a surge and consolidation of nationalist sentiments and  distrust in the European project.  

A victory for Frederiksen would be a boon for Europe’s social democrats as they gaze across the EU, although Frederiksen has criticised other social democratic parties with regards to labour rights, increasing inequality and immigration. 

Additionally, this victory will further consolidate the fragile EU security policy. The war in Ukraine has already impacted energy prices all over Europe, risking lasting high prices of oil and gas, as well as the need for new energy, and has put the EU’s  dependence on China under question. This greater Danish commitment will make the Arctic region a greater geostrategic and political priority for both the EU and NATO

Laura Revenga

Research and Analysis