Social Democratic leader Mette Frederiksen delivers a speech in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image Credit: Reuters

Copenhagen: Denmark’s Social Democrats won Wednesday’s election, resulting in a changed political landscape that will bring with it a new Left-leaning government led by a 41-year-old woman.

Voters handed the anti-immigrant nationalists their worst drubbing ever in an election, and the result puts Social Democrat leader Mette Frederiksen in line to be Denmark’s youngest prime minister and only the second woman to lead the country’s government.

The result suggests that voters have had enough of the ultra-hard line of the Danish People’s Party on which the centre-right coalition has relied for support. Even Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen signalled that he found some of Denmark’s immigration laws too draconian after recently revealing that the Harvard-educated American fiancee of his 29-year-old son was unable to stay in the country.

The centre-left opposition bloc gained 91 seats versus 75 for the centre-right government bloc. Frederiksen, whose Social Democrats led with 26 per cent of the vote, now faces protracted coalition talks. The result is the latest example of centre-left parties regaining political dominance in the Nordic region, with both Sweden and Finland leading the way in earlier elections.

“This was an election that was about welfare and after tonight we’ll again put welfare first,” Frederiksen said in a speech after the outcome was clear. “This was an historically big win.”

Frederiksen stands out in Social Democratic history for having agreed to somewhat tougher rules on foreign labour, though without stigmatising Muslims in the same way the country’s nationalists have done. The move appears to have undermined the supremacy of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, whose disastrous result means that Rasmussen lost the parliamentary support he needed to stay in office.

Rasmussen conceded defeat shortly before midnight and said he will hand in his resignation to Denmark’s queen on Thursday. Frederiksen “should have the chance to form a new government,” he said.

Everything now points toward “a regime shift in Danish politics,” said Helge Pedersen, chief economist at Nordea Bank in Copenhagen.