High-profile exits hurt SF on all fronts

The three party members who left this week took with them a mandate, cash, and apparently a lot of voter support

Following the exodus of three high-profile members earlier this week, voters too are now fleeing from Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF). 


A new Megafon poll carried out for TV2 and Politiken showed that only 4.2 percent of voters would mark their ballots for SF if an election were to be held today. That's more than a halving of the party's support in the September 2011 parliamentary elections, in which SF received 9.2 percent of the vote. 


The results are just the latest bout of bad news for the government coalition party, which this week saw its political spokesperson, an MEP and a former MP bolt the party in favour of coalition partners Socialdemokraterne (S). 


Those exits took with them a mandate in parliament and significant financial support for the party. 


Former political spokesperson Jesper Petersen's new membership in S means that SF loses out on a mandate and over 500,000 kroner that Petersen's seat at Christiansborg brings in each year, party secretary Turid Leirvoll told Politiken newspaper. Likewise, the 1.9 million kroner budgeted to MEP Emilie Turunen will now go to S's coffers following her switch.


But most troublesome for the SFers left behind is that Petersen kept his mandate in parliament, despite the fact that the overwhelming number of votes that put him there were party votes rather than personal votes for Petersen. Of the 18,000 votes needed to get in to parliament in Petersen's district in southern Jutland, over 14,000 of the votes he received were party votes. Only 4,340 voted directly for Petersen. 


"When one has a mandate with so many party votes, I think by principle that mandate belongs to the party," Ida Damborg, a member of SF's national leadership, told Politiken. "Those 14,000 people voted for SF as a party. There isn't a single one of them who wanted that mandate to go to Socialdemokraterne."


Marie Sunesen, the head of SF in southern Jutland, agreed that Petersen was running away with a mandate that should have stayed with the party.


"It is of course unfortunate about the money, but the mandate is the most important because it doesn't just belong to Jesper," Sunesen told Politiken. "It's like somebody leaving their wife for their mistress and taking the silverware with them. I think he is letting down the voters."


Petersen, unsurprisingly, had a different take. 


"I have chosen to remain in parliament because I want to make a difference in the lives of Danes who have been affected by the economic crisis," the new S member wrote on Facebook. "I wanted that at the election and I still want that. I feel like I would let those who voted for me down if I were to leave parliament."


With Petersen having left SF for S, his former party now has only 15 mandates in parliament, making it the fifth-largest party, with two less mandates that coalition party Radikale and just three more than far-left party Enhedslisten. 


If the poll results are anything to go by, things would only get worse at the next election. The 4.2 percent support sees SF joining Konservative as the smallest of Denmark's main political parties.