Danish leader quits in bid to form new Cabinet despite win

Nov 2, 2022, 2:06 AM | Updated: 9:00 am
Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, right, and lead...

Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, right, and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen talk during the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Despite finishing first in Denmark’s election, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen decided to step down along with her Social Democratic government Wednesday in an attempt to build a broader coalition across the political divide.

Frederiksen’s announcement came after a dramatic vote count in which the center-left bloc that has backed her since 2019 retained its majority in Parliament by a single seat.

In theory, the 44-year-old Social Democratic leader could have stayed in power as head of a minority government. But she said she would stick to promises made before Tuesday’s election to try to form a wider governing coalition that includes parties on the center-right.

“I am happy, proud, and grateful,” Frederiksen said. “It has been a very difficult few years to be prime minister: first the pandemic, now inflation. A lot indicated that a sitting government would not achieve reelection.”

Frederiksen handed her resignation Wednesday to Queen Margrethe, Denmark’s figurehead monarch. Frederiksen will remain as prime minister in a caretaking capacity until a new government is formed.

Parties that together represent a majority in parliament backed having her lead talks on creating the next government, which the queen was expected to ask the prime minister to do.

Frederiksen called the early election last month amid fallout from her government’s contentious decision to cull millions of minks as a pandemic response measure. The cull and chilling images of mass graves of minks have haunted Frederiksen since 2020 and eventually led to cracks in the center-left bloc.

On Tuesday, the Social Democrats won 28% of the vote, or 50 seats in the 179-member Danish Parliament. Exit polls and early results had suggested the center-left parties together would not gather the 90 seats needed for a majority. They were one seat short until the very end of the ballot count, when the decisive seat flipped.

Before that, former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen appeared set to become kingmaker. His newly formed Moderate party won 9% of the vote for 16 seats, according to a preliminary count of all ballots. Election turnout was 84,1%, according to official figures.

Løkke Rasmussen, a two-time government leader who lost the 2019 election to Frederiksen and abandoned the center-right Liberal party following an internal power struggle, said he would support Frederiksen’s attempt to form a government, but not necessarily with her as prime minister.

“I know for sure that Denmark needs a new government,” he told jubilant supporters in Copenhagen. “Who is going to sit at the end of the table? We do not know.”

Election results from Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory which has two seats in the legislature, confirmed early Wednesday that the center-left bloc would have a one-seat majority in Parliament.

Some of Frederiksen’s former partners expressed disappointment that she opted to seek a broader coalition rather than continue to govern with support from the center-left. Troels Bøggild, an associate professor of political science at Aarhus University in western Denmark, said Frederiksen now has two options for forming a new government.

“Either go with the Moderates (at the center) and the Liberals, and if that fails, she can crawl back to the red bloc and form a government there,” he said. “By resigning, she shows that her election promises to build a broad center government are serious.”

Frederiksen said a broad coalition would be better placed to face major challenges such as inflation, climate change and shortcomings in the public health care system.

Before the election, opposition leaders Jakob Ellemann-Jensen of the Liberals and Søren Pape Poulsen of the Conservatives dismissed the idea of joining forces with Frederiksen, saying they aimed to form a center-right government. The center-right bloc won 73 seats, well short of a majority, after a poor showing by the Liberals.

Frederiksen, who became Denmark’s youngest prime minister when she took office in 2019 at age 41, teamed up with the opposition to increase NATO-member Denmark’s defense spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Her steadfast leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic was partly overshadowed by the mink-culling episode.

The decision to slaughter up to 17 million minks to protect humans from a mutation of the coronavirus was taken in haste and without the required legislation in place. It dealt a devastating blow to Danish mink farmers, even though there was no evidence the mutated virus found among some minks was more dangerous than other strains.

Sofie Carsten Nielsen, the leader of the Social Liberal Party and an ally of Frederiksen’s first government who forced the prime minister to call the early election, resigned Wednesday. Carsten Nielsen took the blame for her party’s setback that the party suffered Tuesday, when it received votes that halved its presence in Parliament.

The demise of the Social Liberals followed Carsten Nielsen expressing support for Frederiksen after issuing an ultimatum to withdraw the party’s support unless the prime minister called the election.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, right, and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen talk during the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen, right, and head of the Conservative People's Party Soeren Pape Poulsen talk before the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Members of the Social Democratic Party and supporters of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen celebrate their victory in the parliament in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes Tuesday in Denmark’s election and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs her appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen reacts before given a speech during the country's general election night at the party's office in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (Nikolai Linares/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, right, and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen talk during the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen, right, and head of the Conservative People's Party Soeren Pape Poulsen talk before the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Members of the Social Democratic Party and supporters of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen celebrate their victory in the parliament in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes Tuesday in Denmark’s election and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs her appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen reacts before given a speech during the country's general election night at the party's office in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (Nikolai Linares/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, right, and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen talk during the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen, right, and head of the Conservative People's Party Soeren Pape Poulsen talk before the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Members of the Social Democratic Party and supporters of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen celebrate their victory in the parliament in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes Tuesday in Denmark’s election and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs her appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen reacts before given a speech during the country's general election night at the party's office in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (Nikolai Linares/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, right, and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen talk during the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen, right, and head of the Conservative People's Party Soeren Pape Poulsen talk before the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Members of the Social Democratic Party and supporters of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen celebrate their victory in the parliament in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes Tuesday in Denmark’s election and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs her appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen reacts before given a speech during the country's general election night at the party's office in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (Nikolai Linares/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Participants including Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen, third from left, attend the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Leader of the Moderates Lars Loekke Rasmussen and leader of Danish Social Liberal Party Sofie Carsten Nielsen, in the background, arrive for the traditional post-election debates in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Voters in Greenland secured the last two seats necessary for the center-left bloc of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to win Denmark's general election. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen talks with media members after the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes in Denmark election Tuesday and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              A members of the local electoral commission counts votes at the polling station at Odense Town Hall in Odense, Denmark, Tuesday Nov. 1, 2022. Denmark's election on Tuesday is expected to change its political landscape, with new parties hoping to enter parliament and others seeing their support dwindle. (Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              A members of the local electoral commission counts votes at the polling station at Odense Town Hall in Odense, Denmark, Tuesday Nov. 1, 2022. Denmark's election on Tuesday is expected to change its political landscape, with new parties hoping to enter parliament and others seeing their support dwindle. (Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Lars Loekke Rasmussen speaks during election night at the Moderates in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Denmark's election on Tuesday is expected to change its political landscape, with new parties hoping to enter parliament and others seeing their support dwindle. (Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Lars Loekke Rasmussen speaks during election night at the Moderates in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Denmark's election on Tuesday is expected to change its political landscape, with new parties hoping to enter parliament and others seeing their support dwindle. (Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Members of the Social Democratic Party and supporters of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen celebrate their victory in the parliament in Copenhagen, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Frederiksen was in a strong position to remain in power after her Social Democrats won the most votes Tuesday in Denmark’s election and a center-left bloc in Parliament that backs her appeared set to retain a majority by just one seat. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen speaks during the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
            
              Denmark's Prime Minister and head of the the Social Democratic Party Mette Frederiksen speaks during the country's general election night at the party in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (Nikolai Linares/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

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Danish leader quits in bid to form new Cabinet despite win