Summer break hits Danish politics, while Venstre awaits Jakob Ellemann-Jensen’s return

Folketinget is out for the summer after a busy end. The government landed broad agreements on defence and education. Mette Frederiksen seems to be staying in the country a little longer, and a quiet month awaits before Jakob Ellemann-Jensen returns as defence minister and chair of Venstre after a long leave due to stress

Summer is officially over in Denmark, and that means there will be little news. The nation gathers to follow Jonas Vingegaard’s attempt to regain the Tour de France-title, and the politicians go on vacation following a hectic, political year.

Mette Frederiksen is unlikely to go to NATO currently. Despite persistent rumors, consideration for the alliance’s stability seems most important considering the War in Ukraine. The member states are expected to ask Jens Stoltenberg to continue for another year. Frederiksen supports this.

This is immediately good news for the government. And especially for Socialdemokratiet, which had begun to be plagued by factionalism and personal disputes with the prospect of a change at the top. But if it’s not a top post in NATO, will it perhaps be another position that Frederiksen seeks outside of Denmark? The question is now being debated, and therefore it is probably only a question of temporary peace within the large governing party.

Ellemann’s back and now what?
For Venstre, the change in the chair’s chair is known and expected. Ellemann-Jensen has announced his return on August after being on sick leave with stress for almost half a year. The acting defence minister and caretaker Venstre leader Troels Lund Poulsen will therefore step down and return as wingman for Ellemann and to the Ministry of Economy.

In recent weeks, the newspapers have been full of stories that Venstre politicians do not expect much from Ellemann-Jensen’s return. Didn’t the substitute cope quite well?

Additionally, Venstre seems to be the party that has benefited the least from participating in the unusual central government. Party supporters are asking themselves what they got out of it, and many voters can probably remember that Ellemann-Jensen spoke strongly against being part of Frederiksen’s government.

Now Venstre is part of such a government, and the party must soon produce results from the unusual co-operation with Socialdemokratiet and Moderaterne.

Bad polling
The opinion polls are consistently showing a loss of 16 to 20 mandates for the governing parties since Election Day last year. The government is pressed to develop a new strategy towards the Danes, while the country rests over the summer.

It seems ironic that the Danish economy is very strong, unemployment is very low, and inflation is on the way down: all parameters that should make the government look good. However, since the beginning, strangely enough, the government has told the Danes they were in the middle of a lot of crises. According to Frederiksen and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the many crises were simply the reason why Denmark needed a broad majority government.

Now the reality is different. The political narrative should be changed accordingly.

The most recent major agreements on defence and education have been concluded with a range of parties, and thus the government has managed to bring Parliament together on long-term agreements.

The parties in the opposition seem most concerned with scoring points for their own gain, and Alex Vanoplagh (Liberal Alliance) and Pia Olsen Dyhr (SF) succeed best. Their problem is that even if they make progress, it does not immediately bring them closer to power, as the mandates in the traditional red (left) and blue (right) blocs are very stable.

Time of the cucumber
This is the status of Danish politics at the beginning of the ‘cucumber period’ – a particularly Danish expression that describes the summer period when both politicians and journalists take a holiday. This means that the ads are more interesting than the articles and half of the news broadcast is Tour de France, barbecue tips and weather forecasts. The Danes call it cucumber time. But why?

Cucumber time is a Danish translation of the German term ‘Sauregurkenzeit’ (time of sour cucumbers), which has been used in Germany since the 1870s. And just like in Denmark, the Germans have used the word for the news-free summertime, when the newspapers are short of material.

The term probably comes from the traders in Berlin, as it is during that period that the cucumbers ripen and are put into the brine.

In Denmark, the word was first used in print back in1897.

By the way: most Danes do not miss the politicians while they are away for the summer. The country seems to be doing just fine without them!