Danes Bash Plan to Boost Military Budget by Dropping Holiday

(Bloomberg) -- Denmark’s new government is hemorrhaging support after proposing to finance increased military spending by dropping a public holiday.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Less than three months after winning a general election, the coalition government of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has the support of fewer than half of voters, the latest opinion polls show.

The government wants to increase defense spending to reach 2% of gross domestic product in 2030, three years earlier than previously planned, to face the increased threat from Russia. Scrapping Great Prayer Day would boost the public budget surplus by roughly $470 million per year, and GDP by three times that, according to calculations by the finance ministry.

The proposal has met with criticism from throughout Danish society. All nine opposition parties in parliament, bishops at Denmark’s state church as well as labor union leaders have protested. About 450,000 Danes have signed an online petition to keep the holiday.

Frederiksen’s Social Democrats would get just 22.8% of the vote if elections were held now, the lowest level in eight years, according to a Voxmeter poll published on Monday. Together with its coalition partners, the government now has the backing of 42.3% of the electorate, down from the 50.1% it received in the Nov. 1 election.

Frederiksen has so far stuck to the plan. “In a government, you have to take responsibility for everything, both the long-term plans but also what might cost you popularity,” Frederiksen said over the weekend.

Great Prayer Day, which falls on the fourth Friday after Easter, was introduced in 1686 as King Christian V merged a number of smaller religious holidays into one to improve productivity. About 73% of Danes are members of the state Lutheran church but fewer than 40% identify as religious.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.