Eurosceptic EU member Denmark voted in a referendum on Thursday to reject a government proposal to adopt the bloc’s justice rules, amid concerns over handing more power to Brussels. The ‘No’ side received 53.1 percent of votes, while the ‘Yes’ camp garnered 46.9 percent, final results showed. Voter turnout stood at 72 percent. “It is a clear no… I have full respect for the Danes’ decision,” Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said at a press conference. The ‘No’ side was led by the eurosceptic, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DPP), which argued that dropping the country’s exemptions on EU justice rules—which it negotiated with Brussels in 1993 as a condition for accepting the Maastricht Treaty—would hand too much power to Brussels and could result in more immigration.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Denmark.
Denmark’s seventh referendum on EU integration offers Brussels and Britain another political lesson on the challenges of selling a pro-European message to wary voters. While its political leaders have a broadly pro-EU in outlook and temperament, over the past quarter century the Danes proved doughty defenders of national sovereignty, voting against joining the euro in 2000 and rejecting the Maastrict treaty in 1992. Thursday’s referendum is in theory about whether Denmark should swap its opt-out on EU justice and home affairs matters for an opt-in, affecting issues such as cross-border policing. But the plebiscite has become a clarion call for eurosceptics keen on fighting against the power of Brussels. The vote, which polls put on a knife edge, will be closely watched across the EU and especially in the UK, which is preparing for its own EU referendum.
Denmark’s center-right-led opposition won parliamentary elections on Thursday, denying the Social Democrat Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt a second term in office after a campaign dominated by the immigration issue. The opposition Liberal Party leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who promised tighter immigration rules and tougher demands on new arrivals in the country, looked set to be the Nordic state’s new leader. With all of the results counted, the opposition bloc had won 52.3% of the vote or 90 seats in the 179 seat parliament. Ms. Thorning-Schmidt and her allies had secured 47.7% support or 85 seats.
Denmark goes to the polls on Thursday in a general election which opinion polls suggest is on a knife edge. The centre-left coalition of PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and the centre-right opposition led by ex-PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen, appear to be neck and neck. But the pollsters have only canvassed the Danish mainland – and voters in Greenland and the Faroe Islands may decide the vote. Minor issues like a Faroes fishing dispute could influence the result. The islands’ fishing community is still angry at Ms Thorning-Schmidt for barring its boats from Danish ports in a 2013 dispute over alleged overfishing.
It’s a little bit like the Falkland Islands getting to decide who leads the government in the U.K. Danes may have to spend the final hours of June 18 — election night — watching their former colonies Greenland and the Faroe Islands decide their fate. After almost two weeks of campaigning, polls show it’s now too close to predict a winner in Denmark’s election. That means four parliamentary seats reserved for the two Atlantic islands that form part of the Kingdom of Denmark may determine who becomes the country’s next prime minister. “The likelihood that North Atlantic votes will be decisive is rising,” said Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen. Should voting among Danes prove inconclusive, it “would be an unfortunate development for democracy,” he said.
Conversations tail off mid-sentence; students stop to take selfies and parents shield young children’s eyes. The cause of their embarrassment: giant posters of a man wearing nothing but a cowboy hat, a gun holster and a knowing smile. This is John Erik Wagner, and he wants to be Denmark’s next prime minister. It may not be a conventional political billboard but, in this time of frenetic campaigning before the Danish general election this month, every available tree or lamppost is plastered with images of politicians and wannabes, and a relatively unknown candidate needs to work hard to make an impression. For Wagner, a 51-year-old Copenhagener, the way to do that was to bare all.
Wearing his trademark flat cap, Lars Aslan Rasmussen was full of optimism as he began canvassing in Nørrebro, a volatile Copenhagen enclave that epitomises the two dominant issues of the Danish election, immigration and welfare. But the mood swiftly changed. Aslan Rasmussen was surrounded by a group of extreme Islamists as he distributed leaflets at the suburban train station, a labyrinth of dark passages, cracked windows, graffiti and very un-Danish litter. “They said I should leave their territory and that Muslims are not allowed to vote. They were very aggressive and told me that you don’t go to paradise when you participate in democracy.”
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Denmark’s Social Democratic prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has announced that parliamentary elections will be held on 18 June. She said the minority government, whose term ends in September, would not resign before the election, but that it was time for voters to have their say on its policies. “It’s the right time to ask Danes whether we should keep the course or if we want experiments by [the opposition],” Thorning-Schmidt told a news conference on Wednesday. The opposition centre-right bloc, led by former prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has a four-percentage-point lead in recent opinion polls. However, Thorning-Schmidt is ahead of Rasmussen in other polls when it comes to credibility.
It could be entitled: how not to get people to vote. The Danish parliament on Tuesday pulled a controversial video replete with cartoon nudity that was meant to encourage young people to vote in this month’s elections for the European Parliament. The 90-second video features “Voteman”, a muscleman first seen in bed with five naked women who then proceeds to beat up young people to force them to vote. He then decapitates one man, interrupting a couple having sex to throw them and their bed out of a window, and using his dolphin to help him chuck people into voting booths. Morgen Lykketoft, speaker of Folketinget, the Danish parliament, had previously warmly endorsed the video. “We are trying to inspire the very young to go out and vote. It is important we get a higher turnout, especially among the young. You have to use all sorts of methods,” he told state radio on Monday. He added: “I think it’s rather innocent. You can find much worse.”
With the 2012 campaign in full swing, and the United States’ election day now 14 months away, let us put the brakes on for a moment and focus us on another election . Yesterday, Danes elected a new prime minister – for the first time ever a woman – and decided on the distribution of the 179 seats in parliament.
The campaign season lasted all of three weeks. There were no political ads on television. Voter participation was 87.7 percent. Compared to the United States – the land of the permanent campaign – the parliamentary democracy of Denmark offers us a glimpse of what elections could be.
Like in the United States, during campaign season here in Denmark it’s hard to drive a block without seeing wall-to-wall campaign signs. And like in America, the top issue here is overwhelmingly the economy. But the biggest difference in campaign season between our two countries – aside from the length – is the money. With a ban on political TV ads in Denmark, cash plays a much smaller role in the blitz for votes here.