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Denmark takes a step to the left

DANISH PARLIAMENT. PHOTO: TROES DEJGAARD HANSEN:FLICKR.JPG

With the election of the first female Prime Minister in Danish history, the government sets off to a new beginning after ten years of liberal dominance. The new Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt was appointed in a close race with the now former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, and she will take over a state with several topics on its agenda. The economic growth in Denmark has not been able to follow comparable countries, like Sweden, and as a consequence the financial situation of the country became the main topic in the election campaign. The new government hopes to resolve these problems with initiatives that include raising high-income taxes and advancing public spending. 

 

When Helle Thorning-Schmidt stepped into office in the Danish parliament, she made history as the first female Prime Minister in Denmark. On September 15 the Danish voters appointed her with the entrusted position as the head of state after being the active leader of the opposition for the last six years. Helle Thorning-Schmidt was selected Prime Minister after her party, Socialdemokratiet, that bases its politics on democratic socialism, gained support from the parties Enhedslisten, SF, and Radikale Venstre. This proved enough to narrowly defeat the government in power despite the fact that Socialdemokratiet only received the second highest percentage of votes with 24,8. Lars Løkke Rasmussen and his party Venstre claimed 26,7 pct.

The new government replaces a solid alliance of the liberal parties, Venstre and Konservative, and the national-oriented Dansk Folkeparti who have been in control of the Danish parliament since 2001. Denmark has up until the recent election had a politically stable entity where the three parties were able to exclude other parties from interfering with their political agenda, led first by Anders Fogh Rasmussen (the current Secretary General of NATO) and Lars Løkke Rasmussen from 2009. Internationally this government has mostly been known for its liberal economic approach and its strict control of immigration.

HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT. PHOTO: HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT:FLICKR.JPG

Several incidents have evoked international stir during this time span. With the focus on nationalistic tendencies in European politics, a lot of attention has been aimed at the influence of Dansk Folkeparti in Danish politics. Likewise, events as the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis in 2005 stands out alongside the involvement in international warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and most recently in Libya. Moreover, recent critique has been raised in light of the increased border control and its effect on the Schengen cooperation established by the EU.

Including the financial setback, this leads plenty of work for a new government. The above-mentioned cases have all tosome degree created a negative image on Danish politics, and in this sense the recent election’s political turn to the left can be seen as the first success for the newly established Danish government. Even though its two main parties, Socialdemokratiet and SF, officially support the national strict migration policies, the international press has praised the election as an alteration towards a friendlier attitude in foreign affairs. International recognised newspapers like Le Monde, Die Welt, The Guardian, and El Pais all praise the fact that Dansk Folkeparti is now left without substantial power. In this light, Denmark seems to have improved its international reputation simply by changing their rule, but not necessarily its actual politics.

However, the success of the Danish politicians from a national perspective is still measured on their ability to solve the financial problems of the country. As a result, the main topic will be the national economy that has suffered ever since the recession in 2008. Even though the negative development has not been anywhere near that of Southern European crises, the Danish growth has been lower than for instance Sweden, a country Denmark generally compares itself with. As a result of this, the election was highly based on who could stimulate the Danish economy. Where the Right-winged parties emphasised public savings, the Left emphasised a need for further public investments. Ultimately, the public chose the latter.

Under the name Fair Løsning (In English: “Fair Solution”), the social democratic government has made an extensive plan for the financial politics in the near future. New initiatives include increased public spending on selected green sectors, three-part negotiations with the unions, and raising high-income taxes. Besides the economical perspectives, Socialdemokratiet is also aiming to raise the criminal age to 15, maintain the current level of economic support to students, and establish a congestion charge for traffic around Copenhagen. If any of these initiatives are approved in the Parliament, the success of these projects will be decisive for whether or not Helle Thorning-Schmidt will be remembered as someone more than just the first female Prime Minister in Denmark.

BJØRN HVIDTFELDT LARSEN

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