1. The general election
Nobody except Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt knows when the election will be held. The last possible date is in September but sometime during March to May is more likely in my view.
2. The economy and party politics
The Danish economy entered a recession in 2008-2009 and the period since 2009 has been five lost years. In fact, if we measure by GDP/person the economy has been stuck at the levels from 2004. So: Ten lost years. This has had repercussions on the political arena where voters first deselected the Liberal-Conservative coalition in 2011 and have shown consistently low levels of support for the governments led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
Denmark isn’t a member of the Eurozone but is a member of the EMU and the various governments have followed the austerity policies advocated by the ECB and the EU (and Germany, in particular). Just as in most of the EU the result has been low inflation, low rates, low or negative growth and high unemployment.
The 2015 election will not mean a change of economic policy – if anything, a Liberal-led government will tighten the austerity measures with regard to public expenditures.
3. The collapse of Social Democracy and a new structure of the party system
From 1924 to 1982 the Social Democrats were the dominant party in the Danish party system while the bourgeois parties had to deal with persistent internal splits and conflicts. Between 1982 and 2001, Danish politics was a more evenhanded affair with left and right competing for government power but the 21st century has seen the continued decline of the Social Democrats. As the 2011-2015 term has shown, Blairite (and EU-compliant) policies haven’t been vote winners for the Social Democrats and the party’s links with the (equally weakened) trade unions are as fragile as never before.
Even if opinion polls should be treated with great care, we now have a situation where three parties – the Liberals, the Danish People’s Party and the Social Democrats – hover around the 20% mark hoping for 25%, two parties – the Red-Green Alliance and the Social Liberals – a bit below the 10% mark and three parties – SF, Liberal Alliance and the Conservatives – around the 5% mark. As voters are volatile, we should perhaps talk about three larger and five smaller parties.
Finally, we now have a split left while the right is concentrated around the Liberals and the DPP. In the medium term, this will make it difficult for the left (including the Social Liberals) to form any kind of stable government.
One factor complicating matters will be the flow of voters from the Liberals to the DPP. Traditionally, the Liberals have relied on the DPP and the “value dimension” to weaken the Social Democrats but now there appears to be direct competition between the Liberals and the DPP.
4. Forming a government
All signs point to a win for the right in the 2015 election. This will mean a government led by Lars Løkke Rasmussen and the Liberals but as the Liberals are set to win somewhere between 20 and 25% of the vote, any single-party government would be a fairly weak one.
The Liberals will need the – formal or informal – support of the DPP to form and run a government but the question is if the DPP would prefer to enter a government or continue to stay outside. EU policy is the major stumbling block here with the DPP opposing further European integration while the Liberals have committed themselves to a referendum on the JHA opt-out. The new competition for voters between the Liberals and the DPP could also complicate matters.
Just adding a Conservative party languishing around 5% of the vote wouldn’t help the Liberals much in terms of parliamentary clout and a three-party coalition of Liberals, Conservatives and Liberal Alliance would still be struggling to control 35% of the seats in the Folketing and be completely dependent on the DPP in economic policy.
So my best guess is that the 2015 election will result in either a Liberal single-party government or a Liberal-DPP coalition. But political scientists are hopeless forecasters.