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Kristian Thulesen Dahl, leader of Danish People’s Party, arrives to vote at his local polling station during the general elections in Thyregod, Denmark June 5, 2019. Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix/via REUTERS

COPENHAGEN, Nov 16 (Reuters) – The head of the far-right Danish People’s Party (DPP), once a dominant force in Danish politics and in the vanguard of a populist surge across Europe, said on Wednesday he would step down following disappointing results in local elections.

The elections held on Tuesday were also a disappointment for the ruling Social Democratic Party, popular for its early lockdowns in the coronavirus pandemic but facing an investigation into its handling of an illegal mink cull last year.

Kristian Thulesen Dahl, DPP leader since 2012, said he would request an extraordinary party assembly to elect a new chairman. He would not run for re-election, he said.

The DPP has been part of the political establishment for more than two decades and used to be the toughest on immigration.

But with most other mainstream parties backing harder immigration measures, the nationalist party has lost its edge since gaining more than one-fifth of votes at the 2015 national election.

At the last election in 2019, support for the party plummeted to 8.7%. In Tuesday’s municipal election, support more than halved from the previous election four years ago to 4.1%, according to results released on Wednesday.

MINK PROBE

Support for the Social Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, slipped 3.9 percentage points in support in elections to 98 municipal councils. Still the party remained the biggest with 28.5% of votes.

Frederiksen ordered the country’s entire mink herd culled last year in response to the rising spread of coronavirus from mink to people, denting support for the party.

“Mette Frederiksen faces her most serious political crisis as prime minister,” broadcaster DR’s political analyst, Christine Cordsen, wrote in an analysis.

The votes have been counted in 89 of 98 municipalities and the Social Democratic Party has so far won 39 mayoral posts, compared with 47 at the last election. The party managed to cling on to the three largest cities, including the capital Copenhagen.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Nick Macfie and Angus MacSwan

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