Dong Energy Deal Has Danish Government on the Brink of Collapse

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 30 2014 8:24 AM

Dong Energy Deal Has Danish Government on the Brink of Collapse

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt hangs out with Angela Merkel and a fishmonger.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Denmark has a largely state-owned company called Dong Energy (which evidently is not a funny name in Danish) that its center-left government wants to partially sell to Goldman Sachs. This is prompting a massive popular and political backlash that's threatening to bring the governing coalition down.

The story itself may be primarily of interest to Borgen fans, but it also illustrates a broader set of issues that are plaguing the European left. The basic issue is that in Denmark, like in many other European countries, the left is divided. On the one hand you have the traditional left-wing party, the Social Democrats, who took something of a neoliberal turn back in the 1990s. Then you have a further-left party, the Socialist People's Party, that's gained support by standing up for what many people see as traditional values that the Social Democrats abandoned. In some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, the traditional center-left party hasn't found a way to collaborate politically with the further-left party, and that makes it extremely mathematically challenging to ever put a progressive coalition government in place.


Denmark bucked that trend. Social Democratic leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt formed a coalitoin with the centrist Social Liberal Party that also brought the Socialist People's Party into government for the first time ever. That was good enough to win the election. But being in alliance with two more moderate parties has consistently forced the SPP to swallow a more moderate policy agenda than it likes. The Goldman deal with Dong Energy was the last straw—or at least a convenient issue to break over since it's unpopular—and now they're leaving the cabinet. The deal also looks to be a moderately bad idea in financial terms. That leaves Thorning-Schmidt with a precarious moderate government. She's going to count on the parliamentary votes of right-of-center parties to get the Dong deal done, and then rely on the SPP for other things. And then based on current polling she's going to lose the next election.

Again, just a story about Denmark. But also a larger story about the state of European politics. Across the continent, even when in the aggregate left-of-center parties are capable of winning a majority, they're finding it very challenging to actually put a governing agenda together.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?