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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 23:09 GMT
Danes undecided as polls loom
Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (r) jokes with his challenger
By Line Vaaben Juhl in Copenhagen

The Danish Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, called Tuesday's general election three weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of the 11 September attacks.

The crisis, and his self-consciously statesmanlike response to it, gave him his best poll ratings for years.


The campaign has focused almost exclusively on the candidates from the two biggest parties, both called Rasmussen

However, support for his governing coalition of Social Democratic and Social Liberal parties, has been declining rapidly ever since. After nine years in power, it could even lose.

All polls have shown a comfortable lead for the government's right-wing challengers - though on Monday, on the eve of the vote, one third of electors were still saying they were undecided.

Immigration

The campaign has focused almost exclusively on the candidates from the two biggest parties, both called Rasmussen: Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, aged 58, and his challenger for the premiership, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, aged 48, leader of the Liberal Party, Venstre.

Pia Kjaersgaard
Pia Kjaersgaard wants to stop refugees

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has led his party since the last election four years ago, when the party missed power by only a couple of hundred votes.

He once had a reputation as an ultra-liberal, but has in recent years appeared to drift towards the centre right.

Denmark's famous scepticism towards the EU has been completely absent in the debate - probably because the two prime ministerial candidates largely agree with each other.

The main theme of the campaign has been policy on immigration and refugees, which has played into the hands of the far right, especially Dansk Folkeparti, which stands to win more than 10% of the vote, making it the third largest party.

One of the party's key platforms is a complete halt to the admission of refugees. The party's leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, has compared Islam with a terror movement.

"Islam, with the fundamentalist tendencies we have seen, must be combated," she recently declared.

Raising the alarm

And Danes have been listening.


The fear of foreign things - immigrants and refugees alike - has boomed in Denmark over the past two months

The fear of foreign things - immigrants and refugees alike - has boomed in Denmark over the past two months, and is now higher than it has been since 1990.

Two out of three Danes now want stricter refugee policies. Before 11 September the figure was only one in two.

Although Anders Fogh Rasmussen will be dependent on Dansk Folkeparti's support to become prime minister, he has also been forced to dissociate himself from some of their views, not to scare away too many voters.

In the final few days of the campaign a large number of Danish intellectuals and artists, among others film director Lars Von Trier, have raised the alarm.

In advertisements in newspapers and on the internet they are warning Danes against voting for a right-wing government, supported by Dansk Folkeparti.

The party is described as having a "repulsive view of human nature" and a government led by a right-wing majority is seen as a "threat to values like justice and freedom of mind".

See also:

22 Aug 01 | Europe
Danes criticise immigrant list
30 Sep 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Danes bite back at Europe
09 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Denmark
19 Nov 01 | Europe
Europe guages Danish no vote
28 Sep 00 | Europe
Danes say no to euro
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