Denmark citizens have started voting in a general election that is widely expected to bring down the ruling center-right coalition after ten years in power over concerns about the economy.
A member of the European Union (EU), but not a component of the euro zone, Denmark is suffering its worst economic malaise since the end of World War II.
Among other woes, the government’s deficit is expected to reach 4.6 percent of GDP next year, while nine struggling banks have been nationalized since 2008. The housing market is in decline, while the central bank has reduced its GDP forecast to 1.25 percent for this year from 1.7 percent.
The Copenhagen government is currently run by Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen's liberal-conservative Blue Bloc which has an uneasy alliance with the nationalistic Danish People's Party (DPP).
The DPP, as the third-largest party in the Danish parliament, recently pressured the state to re-impose border controls over concerns about illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition ‘Red Bloc,’ Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is poised to become Denmark’s first female Prime Minister.
Leader of the Social Democrat Party, she has attacked Rasmussen for failing to stimulate the economy and permitting the deficit to climb.
Denmark needs change, Denmark needs to move on and Denmark needs my leadership, Thorning-Schmidt said.
Reuters reported that Thorning-Schmidt is calling for more government spending as well as a peculiar measure to make every Dane work an additional 12 minutes each day (on the presumption that an extra hour of work per week will re-ignite economic growth).
Thorning-Schmidt is a former Member of European Parliament and is married to Stephen Kinnock, son of British Labour Party politicians Neil and Glenys Kinnock.
In contrast, Rasmussen wants to impose austerity measures and put an end to the country’s early retirement system.
In the middle of a worldwide crisis, Danes are faced with a clear choice: uncontrolled debt or permanent welfare, he said on Wednesday.
A Danish citizen of Pakistani origin in Copenhagen told Agence France Presse: I'm voting for the red bloc [centre-left], because they are good for the Danish population. We have had enough of [DPP leader] Pia Kjaersgaard.This has been the worst 10 years for integration. I know a lot of families, whose child was born in Denmark, but the mother or father cannot be with their children [due to strict immigration rules.]”