COPENHAGEN – Denmark’s parliament on Tuesday adopted a controversial Bill to abolish a public holiday to put more money towards its military, a priority following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

After weeks of protests against the government plan, 95 MPs voted in favour and 68 against.

Denmark’s left-right government coalition, in power since December and led by Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, announced plans in January to scrap the religious holiday known as Great Prayer Day and observed since the 17th century.

The cancellation would provide an additional three billion kroner (S$575 million) to state coffers, thanks to an additional 7.4 hours of labour per worker, according to the government.

In early February, some 50,000 protesters gathered outside the parliament in Copenhagen, a rare sight in country that usually seeks consensus.

The government wants to use the money generated to raise the defence budget to Nato’s target of 2 per cent of GDP by 2030, instead of 2033 as previously planned.

It insists the accelerated calendar is necessary due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t think it’s a problem to have to work an extra day,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in January.

“We are facing enormous expenditures for defence and security, health care, psychiatry and the green transition,” she added, when presenting the government’s programme to parliament. AFP