Socialdemokraterne may be losing voters but it’s picking up politicians

Since chairman election in October last year, several Socialistisk Folkeparti politicians have taken one step to the right and joined Socialdemokraterne

According to opinion polls, Socialdemokraterne (S) are less popular amongst voters than the party has ever been. It seems, however, that they have become a lot more popular amongst politicians. Since December of last year, several Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF) members have left their own party to join fellow government coalition party S.

In the last two days alone, SF political spokesperson, Jesper Petersen, MEP Emilie Turunen and former MP Nanna Westerby, all fled to S. SF's director of communications, Claus Perregaard, also bolted but he said he was walking away from politics altogether. 

SF's problems can be traced back to last October, when the party held a hotly-contested election for a new chairman after former leader Villy Søvndal gave up the post. Annette Vilhelmsen received 66 percent of the votes for chairman, besting the health minister, Astrid Krag, who received 34 percent. Vilhelmsen was rewarded not only with the chairmanship, but also became the growth and business minister.

Two days after the chairman elections, on October 15, Vilhelmsen dismissed Thor Möger Pedersen, a former SF deputy leader, as the tax minister, causing further rifts within the party.

On December 6, deputy chairman, Mattias Tesfaye, chose to leave the party and join S. According to Politiken newspaper, he left due to disagreements with the political direction of the party after Vilhelmsen became chairman. 

The next one to show disagreement with Vilhelmsen was Kasper Bjering Søby Jensen, a member of the party's leadership who left SF on December 10 and joined S.

The trio of announcements that have come within the last 24 hours appear to have been a co-ordinated effort between Petersen, Turunen and Westerby, who is Pedersen's wife. According to Jyllands-Posten newspaper, the three spoke privately about their decision and Turunen and Westerby both announced their moves on Facebook at exactly 8:41am this morning. 

“I am changing party because I have changed politically. I agree mostly with Socialdemokraterne,” Westerby wrote on her Facebook page.

Turunen, meanwhile, wrote on Facebook that she feels that S is the only party that can defeat leading opposition party Venstre. She also wrote that she was disappointed that Vilhelmsen was elected chairman but said it was not a deciding factor.

“The election of the new chairman was not the reason that I am leaving now, but it gave me rise to reflect upon my political stand, beliefs, and my dreams and from where these are best carried out,” Turunen wrote. “I am leaving SF without bitterness, but with great clarification. I wish all the best for SF. It is just not my party any longer.”

Petersen was accepted as an S member today and will now represent that party in parliament. He too could not accept Vilhelmsen as SF’s leader and said he disagreed with the party's political decisions over the past several months. 

"I can sense deep down in my gut that I would feel more at home as a backbencher for Socialdemokraterne than I would continuing to be up front for SF," he said.