COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark’s center-left “Red bloc” was poised to win power on Thursday and oust center-right Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in an election driven by voter anger over the state of the economy, early exit polls showed.
If they prove correct, Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt would be the next prime minister, the first woman to hold the post in Denmark. The center-right “Blue bloc” has been in power for 10 years.
The state of the economy has been the overriding issue of the campaign, with the governing coalition parties, like others in Europe, under fire for presiding over the worst downturn since World War Two.
Her platform includes increased government spending, along with an unusual plan to make everyone work 12 minutes more per day. An extra hour of productivity each week, her group argues, would help kick-start economic growth.
“We (should) stay on the course that has (brought us) reasonably through the crisis, create new optimism in Denmark, not create obstacles to private consumption and not make it more expensive to be Danish,” he said.
Denmark has been spared much of the trauma suffered by west European countries because it remains outside the euro zone. This means it is not involved in bailing out debt-laden countries like Greece, an issue that has stirred popular anger in neighboring Germany.
Danish banks have also been struggling, with small bank Fjordbank Mors falling into the hands of administrators in June, the ninth Danish bank to be taken over by the state since the start of the crisis in 2008.
Thorning-Schmidt is part of an extended European political family, married to the son of Neil and Glenys Kinnock. Neil was a European commissioner and British Labour Party leader, Glenys a European parliamentary deputy and Europe minister in the last Labour government.
Rasmussen, widely known as Lokke in part because he is Denmark’s third unrelated Rasmussen prime minister in a row, is best known on the international scene for hosting failed U.N. climate change talks in Copenhagen in 2009.
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