May 16, 2019 / 11:33 AM / 2 months ago

Danish PM suggests allying with main opposition to curb extremists

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish Prime Minister Lokke Rasmussen is willing to form a governing coalition with the Social Democrats after the June 5 election to help curb the influence of smaller, more extreme parties, he said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen arrives at an European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Rasmussen’s centre-right Liberal Party is trailing in pre-election polls, however, so he might have to hand responsibility for forming a new government to the Social Democratic leader, Mette Frederiksen, following the vote.

Rasmussen’s minority government has been relying on support from the populist Danish People’s Party (DF) to pass laws, leading it to back tougher laws to curb immigration.

But polls show DF, which got 21% of votes at the 2015 election, stands to lose nearly half that on June 5 as centrist parties embrace stricter stances on immigration.

The Social Democrats have done the same, helping provide a basis for a coalition with the Liberals on a major issue.

“I fear that Danish politics will be thrown into chaos – a fear I believe is shared by many Danes,” Rasmussen told reporters at the launch of a new book about himself.

He was touching on concerns that two new far-right parties, one of which wants Islam banned and hundreds of thousands of Muslims deported, could win parliamentary seats in the June 5 election, according to recent polls.

“If I only get the opportunity to continue as premier by making myself politically dependent on the extreme right, then I would much rather explore the possibility of cooperation across the middle,” said Rasmussen, alluding to the Social Democrats.

Social Democratic leader Frederiksen said at a press conference later on Thursday she was “pretty baffled” at Rasmussen’s suggestion.

“I can’t see it happening with the disagreement we have,” she said, pointing to major differences on issues like inequality, welfare and climate change.

Political fragmentation has bedevilled mainstream parties across Europe, including nearby Sweden. It took over four months to form a Swedish government last year after an election that allowed a far-right populist party to threaten the usual balance of power.

Danish politics has historically been split between a centre-right bloc headed by the Liberal Party and the centre-left, headed by the Social Democrats.

Still, Denmark has a history of political consensus that has seen most major policy legislation passed by majorities spanning the two camps.

A previous Liberal-Social Democratic coalition lasted around 14 months in the late 1970s.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Stine Jacobsen and Andreas Mortensen, editing by Larry King

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