Fogh Ahead For Denmark

Fogh Ahead for Denmark

Spiegel On Line
November 15, 2007

Anders Fogh Rasmussen has won his third set of parliamentary elections, making him the only member of his party to ever win a third term as prime minister. But German papers suspect that this term will be his most challenging, with the right-wing populist Danish People's Party, which backs Rasmussen, seeking ever more influence.

Following a narrow victory (more…) in the Danish elections on Tuesday, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's liberal-right Venstre party will form a government (more…) with the Conservatives for the next four years. The minority government will be supported by the far-right Danish People's Party (DPP).

Rasmussen owes his victory to the Faroe Island's Liberal Party, which gave one of the seats it won in parliament to his Venstre party, allowing him to retain his liberal-conservative-populist triumvirate of power. But with the three parties taking only a narrow majority — 90 of the 179 seats in parliament — and the DPP demanding more influence, Rasmussen's third term in office is unlikely to be an easy one.

Even though issues traditionally championed by the Social Democrats dominated the election campaign — domestic welfare, tax reform, immigration and climate change — the party still failed to win.

One of the very few political leaders to have supported the US-led war in Iraq without suffering a defeat in the next election, Denmark's thriving economy and low unemployment rate helped to buoy 54-year-old economist Rasmussen. Denmark withdrew its 460 troops in Iraq in August and replaced them with a small airforce squad operated by a 55-member team.

Leading up to the elections, analysts had predicted a more significant shift in Denmark's political landscape. Polls indicated that the Ny Alliance (New Alliance) party, founded by Syrian-born Naser Khader in May, would garner major support and that Rasmussen could be forced to form an awkward coalition with the anti-immigration DPP and Khader's centrist party, which is pushing for better treatment of refugees.

German papers on Thursday acknowledge Rasmussen's major successes on the economic front, but predict tensions within his coalition and a shift to the right in social policies that will come as a result of popular support for the right-wing DPP.

The center-left Sddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Rasmussen's governing coalition has been something of a complicated triangle. His liberal Venstre party was, on the one hand, allied with the conservatives. At the same time, it had to appease the Danish People's Party, on whose votes it relied in parliament. This xenophobic party often behaved like a jealous lover. Chronically suspicious, it defended its roll as kingmaker. In this election, it often looked as though party leader Pia Kjaersgaard would be having to share her special status with none other than the immigrant Naser Khader and his New Alliance. The sharp-tongued party chairwoman of the People's Party was visibly relieved when, on the election evening, she was able to confirm: 'We don't need Khader.'”

“Ultimately, though, it will be left up to Rasmussen to determine whether Khader is needed or not. Throughout the election he remained open to Khader's approaches and even after the results were known, he didn't rule out the possibility of working together. … Without new support, the coalition's future is uncertain.”

The conservative Die Welt writes:

“Denmark is enjoying an economic boom: Its unemployment rate of 3.1 percent is the lowest in 30 years. But Fogh Rasmussen isn't resting on his laurels. He knows that the welfare state has to be pared down even further in order to meet the challenges of globalization and increased competition for allocations.”

“Long before Gerhard Schrder's Agenda 2010 reforms in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy's restructuring plans in France, conservative Fogh Rasmussen outlined the tough economic principles for necessary adjustments to the outdated welfare state system in his book 'From the Social State to the Minimal State.' This was not uncontroversial in traditionally socialist Denmark, but it turned his party into the country's strongest after 80 years of social democratic dominance and brought him to power in 2001.”

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“Rasmussen was able to prevail because he promised a better social welfare state and chose to fight his battle on a field that actually belongs to the leftist opposition. Even though the Social Democrats campaigned on a slogan of 'welfare, not fewer taxes' and their candidate, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, remained aggressive throughout, her party earned its worst election results in 100 years. Meanwhile, Rasmussen was granted a mandate from voters who believe that the economic-political solidarity he embodies will bring with it new social-political promise.”

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

“The leftist Socialists want to keep the pressure on the election machinery because they believe a new election is not far off. They were not alone with this assessment on the evening of the election. Had all the opposition parties done as well as they had, Rasmussen would have had to say farewell. The Social Democrats can be blamed for it not coming to that — they have yet to comprehend that it's useless to try to force their way into the political center, which is already full. Their response to the last election results was to swap the man at their head for a woman. Perhaps they should change their social democratic policies for once instead.”

“In the area of immigration policy, for which Denmark has become notorious in Europe, things are not going to get any better. To the contrary. … With his weakened basis, Prime Minister Rasmussen is going to have an even harder time resisting demands for further restrictions on immigration.”

— Naomi Buck, 3:30 p.m. CET