A Single-Party Government on a Slim Base

And we have a government: The first round of negotiations after the election showed that a four-party majority coalition was off the table and the second round did away with all other coalitions leaving us with a Liberal single-party government based on 34 of the 179 seats in the Folketing. In quantitative terms, Løkke Rasmussen’s second government will be the weakest since Poul Hartling’s 1973-1975 government.

Based on Friday’s media reports, EU policy appears to have been the breaking point in the negotiations between the Liberals and the Danish People’s Party with the Liberals wanting to comply openly with EU rules about free movement but the election campaign has shown that several dimensions are at play here with the four “Blue” parties positioned differently on each dimension. This become even more complicated when we add the parties in the “Red” bloc.

Consider these cases based on my impression of the campaign and the 2011-2015 term:

  1. The classic socio-economic dimension: Red Greens – SF – Social Democrats – Alternative – Social Liberals – Danish People’s Party – Liberals – Conservatives – Liberal Alliance
  2. The immigration policy dimension (which also covers environment) (pro to contra): Red Greens – Social Liberals – Alternative – SF – Social Democrats – Liberal Alliance – Conservatives – Liberals – Danish People’s Party
  3. The EU dimension (pro to contra): Social Liberals – Social Democrats – Alternative (?) – SF – Conservatives – Liberals – Liberal Alliance – Danish People’s Party – Red Greens
  4. The welfare state retrenchment (or reform) dimension: Red Greens – Danish People’s Party – SF – Alternative – Social Democrats – Liberals – Conservatives – Social Liberals – Liberal Alliance

The best way to describe this is to say that the Liberals are somehow close to the centre on most dimensions and they are the party which is the closest to the intersection of all four dimensions. So we should expect a Liberal government to have the largest degree of freedom in creating parliamentary majorities, provided that the other parties accept the patchwork nature of cooperation in the coming term.

One final consideration: Liberal single-party minority governments have traditionally performed poorly. Niels Neergaard’s second term in office 1920-1924 ended in chaos with regard to economic policy (a major banking crisid did nothing to help Mr. Neergaard) while Th. Madsen-Mygdal (1926-1929), Knud Kristensen (1945-1947) and Poul Hartling (1973-1975) all overplayed their cards on the parliamentary arena and lost power, even despite clear electoral wins for Kristensen and Hartling. Lars Løkke Rasmussen is probably a shrewder negotiator than any of his four predecessors1, even if he is unpopular among voters so the systemic factor (the Liberals at the intersection) and the individual factor (Løkke Rasmussen) could play in the new government’s favour.

  1. Erik Eriksen led a Liberal-Conservative coalition as did Anders Fogh Rasmussen []