Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Denmark's Election Blunts Far Right's Power

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Denmark's Election Blunts Far Right's Power

Article excerpt

Helle Thorning-Schmidt is slated to become Denmark's first female prime minister after her left-wing coalition edged out government heavily influenced by Denmark's extreme right.

In Thursday's national election, Danish voters gave a small thumbs-up to a center-left coalition and to the nation's first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, ending a decade of government defined by tough policies on immigration and harsh rhetoric on Muslims.

"We made history today," said an ebullient Ms. Thorning-Schmidt.

Last night, her Social Democratic party celebrated the successful end of a campaign that focused on Denmark's recent economic drift and promised to tax banks, to increase the Danish workday by 12 minutes, and not to "jump on the austerity bandwagon" as other European states are doing, as Thorning-Schmidt put it.

Female politicians are not unusual in Scandinavia. But a new left coalition and a young female leader may change Denmark's image as an increasingly closed and often Europhobic state that this summer tried to create separate border control stations, angering Germany and European Union officials.

Thorning-Schmidt lost a previous bid in 2007 but pressed on this year to overcome a tag of "inexperienced." The daughter-in-law of British Labour leader Neil Kinnock, she also weathered tabloid efforts to paint her as a pampered elite - she was often called "Gucci Helle" - who cared more for Europe than Denmark.

She fought back, depicting the election as being between progressives and the "bourgeoisie." But some analysts said that Thursday's close election came down more to voting out old faces than affirming new ones.

Slim victory

While polls in August showed a possible blow-out for a so-called "Red coalition" led by Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democratic party - the victory margin last night was only five seats, in a 50.3 to 49.7 tally.

Thorning-Schmidt's four-party leftwing coalition scored 92 seats compared with 88 by a center-right grouping, which was often steered by the powerful influence of the far-right anti-Islam and anti-EU Danish People's Party (DPP), known as "kingmakers" in a coalition led by outgoing Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen. …

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