Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Denmark elects first female Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, leader of the Danish Social Democrats
Helle Thorning-Schmidt is cheered by partymembers in Copenhagen (POLFOTO)

Denmark last night elected its first female Prime Minister, ending a decade of populist-backed right-wing rule which had earned the country a reputation for pursuing some of the most anti-immigrant policies in Europe.

Near-complete official results showed a left-leaning bloc led by Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt would gain a narrow majority in the 179-seat Parliament, ousting liberal Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen's centre-right coalition.



"We did it. Make no mistake: We have written history," the 44-year-old opposition leader told jubilant supporters in Copenhagen. "Today there's a change of guards in Denmark."



Mr Rasmussen conceded defeat, saying he would present his Cabinet's resignation on Friday to Queen Margrethe, Denmark's figurehead monarch.



As leader of a prospective "Red Bloc" coalition, Ms Thorning-Schmidt has promised to sweep away the anti-immigrant policies introduced at the behest of the right-wing Danish People's Party. Mr Rasmussen's "Blue Bloc" had insisted on strict border controls which have angered the European Union.



Ms Thorning-Schmidt has also pledged to end conservative austerity measures, introduce taxes for banks and the wealthy and boost the economy with increased public spending. Her win is the first Scandinavian general election victory for a left-wing alliance since the devastating massacre carried out by Norway's anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik in July.



Ms Thorning-Schmidt has been the leader of the Social Democrats for six years. Her expensive tastes have earned her the nickname "Gucci Helle". Her campaign was rocked by allegations in the tabloid press that her husband, Stephen Kinnock – the son of former Labour leader Lord Kinnock – is gay and that the couple had avoided paying taxes on their properties in Denmark.



Before polling yesterday, Ms Thorning-Schmidt was forced to deny the charges, insisting: "I can only say it is not true." She added: "It is so grotesque. It is unpleasant to hear people talk about us like that."



Allegations that the couple avoided paying property tax in Denmark also resurfaced during the campaign. The rumours were provoked by the fact that Mr Kinnock, who works for the World Economic Forum in Geneva and earns a salary of more than €115,000 a year (£101,000), claims to spend most of his time in Switzerland.



Last year the couple were at the centre of a scandal in which Mr Kinnock was accused of avoiding paying Denmark's notoriously high taxes by claiming to be a non-resident who spent only 33 weekends in the country each year. Tax inspectors subsequently cleared them of the allegations.



However, in an application to make Mr Kinnock co-owner of the couple's €575,000 Copenhagen home, Ms Thorning-Schmidt claimed her husband was there every weekend of the year. She has since been forced to admit she made "mistakes" in her tax declarations.



In an effort to reassure voters in the run-up to polling, Mr Kinnock took a break from his job and returned to Denmark where he is reported to have taken on family chores such as cleaning, cooking and looking after their two daughters.

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