COPENHAGEN -- Helle Thorning-Schmidt has become the first female prime minister of Denmark, according results of the Danish general election on Thursday.
Thorning-Schmidt, who is a Social Democrat, beat the incumbent prime minister from the Liberal-Conservative coalition Lars Loekke Rasmussen who has been in office since April 2009 when the then prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen became NATO Secretary General.
The Social Democrats and their centre-left allies in the Red bloc won the majority of the votes with 92 out of 179 seats in the Danish parliament ending 10 years of centre-right government rule. The opposition gained eight more seats since the latest election in 2007. Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democrats won 44 seats and will remain the second largest party in the parliament after the Liberals.
Dear fellow party members, we did it! the new prime minister said in a speech upon the victory. Today, things have changed in Denmark. The road has been long and there have been tough times, but tonight we have shown that the Social Democrats are a big power factor in Denmark. And we should be proud of that. Today, we have written history.
Thorning-Schmidt and the Social Democrats are expected to form a government with the left-wing Socialist People's Party and the centrist party the Social Liberals in the coming days.
I have congratulated Helle. Tomorrow, I'll give her the keys to the Prime Minister's Office. I hope she takes good care of it. She can only borrow it for now, Rasmussen said.
It's The Economy
For the first time in a decade, the major issue of the Danish election campaign has been the economy and not tightening immigration laws.
Denmark has remained outside the euro zone and therefore not taken part in bailing out debt-ridden countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal. However, Denmark has been Scandinavia's worst performing economy during the financial crisis and the country struggles with a frozen housing market, a liquidity crisis among regional banks and rising unemployment especially among the Danish youth.
The unemployment rate is currently at 4.1 percent; up from 1.5 percent when the global economic crisis hit three years ago. Though, the Danish economy grew 1 percent in the second quarter of 2011, the country expects an estimated budget deficit in 2012 of 85 billion kroner ($16 billion, or 4.6 percent of GDP). Former Prime Minister Rasmussen has pushed for reforms of the unemployment benefits, the retirement age and national pensions to cut the deficit. The new prime minister, however, wants more public spending and to kick-start the economy by hasten planned investments.
We have a very ambitious growth package. It will jumpstart the economy, but also offer initiatives to ensure sustainable growth. Without growth we can't pay down our debt, and without growth there's no money for welfare, Thorning-Schmidt has said.
44-year-old Thorning-Schmidt has a Master's degree in political science and is a former member of the European Parliament. She will join an exclusive club of currently 16 female head of states in the world, including Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of Brazil Dilma Roussef.
The Danish prime minister is also a daughter-in-law of the former British Labor leader Neil Kinnock, and has two children. Thorning-Schmidt is known to be a very private person that the Danes actually don't know much about.
She has been labeled too good-looking for politics and been criticized for dressing posh and by doing so being out of touch with her voters which are mainly workers and low-income groups. This has sparked her nickname Gucci Helle in Danish press. Thorning-Schmidt has always refused to comment on her looks.