Danish deputy prime minister leaves politics, but his party stays on in the coalition government

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s deputy prime minister and economy minister announced Monday he was leaving politics and stepping down as head of the center-right Liberal Party to spend more time with his family after criticism within the party.

The Liberals, however, are staying on in the three-party governing coalition that has been in office since December 2022.

For now, Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen will take over Jakob Ellemann-Jensen’s posts. The government confirmed the setup.

Ellemann-Jensen, 50, formally stepped down when he handed over his resignation to Denmark’s figurehead monarch, Queen Margrethe.

“It is a definitive farewell to Danish politics,” he said after leaving the royal palace.

Earlier in the day, a visibly moved Ellemann-Jensen said he was accepting the consequences following internal party criticism over dwindling support. He said he didn’t want to stand in the way of his party’s revival.

The party had seen support plunge from 24.6% in September 2019, when he became party leader, to 8.7% in an Oct. 3 opinion poll.

Critics alleged that Ellemann-Jensen was too weak of a figure in a government where Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen were taking up much of the limelight.

“I am taking this decision because it is the right thing for the Liberal Party,” Ellemann-Jensen said and insisted his recent sick leave was not a factor in his decision. Earlier this year, he was on a five-month sick leave following a medical check-up.

Senior party member Stephanie Lose will assume the party leadership until a party convention next month.

On Aug. 22, a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Danish lawmakers for providing Kyiv with F-16 warplanes, Ellemann-Jensen swapped posts with Lund Poulsen to become economy minister. During Ellemann-Jensen’s sick leave, Lund Poulsen had acted as defense minister.

Frederiksen announced a majority coalition that crosses the left-right divide on Dec. 15, 2022, following the Nov. 1 general elections. It was the first time in 44 years that such a centrist government had been formed, bringing an end to the two blocs that opposed each other for decades.

The Liberals joined Frederiksen’s center-left Social Democrats and the centrist Moderate party headed by Løkke Rasmussen.

Ahead of the 2022 election, the Liberal Party had splintered. Løkke Rasmussen created a new party as did former immigration minister Inger Støjberg, who then was the Liberal Party deputy leader.

Ellemann-Jensen then tried to rebuild the party, but the two other parties had eaten away support for the Liberals.

He is the son of Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, who was Denmark’s charismatic foreign minister for more than 10 years from the early 1980s and was considered one of the Nordic region’s key politicians in the end phase of the Cold War. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen died in 2022 at age 80.

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