Although Lars Loekke Rasmussen of the center-right-wing Venstre party is set to once again become prime minister of Denmark (he previously led the country from 2009 to 2011), the Danish general election on Thursday was also a clear victory for the populist Danish People's Party (DPP).
Boosted by increasing worry over the cost of immigration to the country's comprehensive welfare state and a perceived destruction of "Danish values" the DPP jumped from the 12.3 percent of the vote it garnered in the last election in 2011 to 21.1 percent, making it the largest party in the victorious right-leaning bloc.
"This election campaign has shown that we are a party that the others just can't avoid. We are a party to be taken seriously here in this country," said party leader Kirstian Thulsen Dahl to the cheering crowd of DPP members on election night.
The size of the win puts pressure on the party to join a rightwing coalition, a move many of its voters support, though it's possible the DPP will opt to maintain its anti-establishment image by staying out of government.
Disappointing night for Venstre
The DPP, which wants to remove Denmark from the Schengen area of free movement inside Europe and massively reduce the number of refugees in Danish territory, has been slowly gathering steam since Dahl took over leadership in 2012. Dahl has softened some of the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric employed by his predecessor, Pia Kjaersgaard, and moved the party slightly to the left on some economic issues.
While outgoing Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democrats won the most votes of any single party at 26.3 percent, her leftist bloc only garnered 85 seats in Danish parliament to the right-wing bloc's 90, and she was forced to concede defeat to Rasmussen.
Despite being the ostensible victor, Rasmussen's Venstre party, previously the largest right-leaning party in Denmark, had a relatively poor showing, coming in at just 19.5 percent.
"The coming days will determine whether it will be possible to build a majority for a (government) platform that will lead Denmark down the right path," Rasmussen said on election night.
In 2009, Rasmussen became the youngest prime minister in Danish history at the age of 44 when Anders Fogh Rasmussen (no relation) left the post to become NATO Secretary General. He was defeated by Thorning-Schmidt at the polls two years later.
es/jil (AFP, dpa)