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Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Danes Go To The Polls

Opinion polls suggest Danish voters will end a decade of far-right influence on Thursday and hand power to the centre-left opposition and the country's first woman prime minister.
Current Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen is struggling to get his minority centre-right coalition government elected for a fourth straight term: pre-vote polls have consistently indicated the odds are against him.

If the government, made up of Rasmussen's Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, loses Thursday's election, it will also end the powerful influence wielded by the populist, anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP).
For 10 years, the DPP has pressured the centre-right coalition to adopt some of Europe's most draconian immigration and integration regulations, in exchange for its support on other issues in parliament.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the 44-year-old head of the Social Democrats who seems likely to become Denmark's first female leader, has repeatedly insisted a break with the DPP-coloured past is needed.
"Basically this election has been about change," she said this week, maintaining the current government is "stuck in political paralysis (due to) the monopoly of the Danish People's Party in terms of making decisions".
A slew of polls published on Wednesday handed the left-leaning opposition, made up of the Social Democrats, Social Liberals, Socialist People's Party and Red Greens, a comfortable lead over the government and its parliamentary supporters, the DPP, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Alliance.
While showing slightly varying distances between the blocs, none showed the current government leading the pack, and that has been the case since Rasmussen called elections late last month.
They indicated that the centre-left would win between 91 and 94 seats in Denmark's 179-seat parliament, against between 81 and 84 seats for the centre-right. Denmark's autonomous territories Greenland and the Faroe Islands hold two seats each.
In the two previous elections, in 2005 and 2007, the Danish economy was booming and so not much of an issue. This time around, however, the campaign has focused on how to get the country out of the slump caused by the global financial crisis.
The centre-right advocates austerity measures, including an end to the country's early retirement system. Rasmussen has insisted such measures are needed to ensure healthy finances that in turn will secure the future of its generous welfare state.
Polls open at 0900 (1700 AEST) and close at 2000 (0400 AEST), with official results expected to begin trickling in shortly after.
Voter turnout is traditionally high in Denmark. In 2007, more than 86.5 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

(Source - BBC)