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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 12:45 GMT
Analysis: Denmark's shift to the right
Anders Fogh Andersson
Anders Fogh Andersson came from behind to seize victory
By Line Vaaben Juhl and Thomas Vennekilde in Copenhagen

The new Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was greeted with rapturous applause from colleagues as the scale of his election victory became clear.

The Danes had a wish for change - for new faces - after nine years with the same people in power

Social Democrat ex-minister
Not only did the right-wing in Parliament - a coalition of his Venstre (Liberal) Party, and the Conservatives - gain power after nine years in opposition, but Venstre is now also the biggest party in Denmark.

The right's triumph appears to have built on a mixture of two key elements.

Firstly, it seems the electorate was ready for change after nine years of Social Democrat-led government, presided over by the European Union's longest-serving Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

Pia Kjaersgaard
Far-right leader Pia Kjaesgaard now has 22 seats in parliament
Secondly - and perhaps more importantly - the opposition campaign successfully tapped into public concerns over immigration, which increased dramatically in the wake of the 11 September attacks, but which had already been dominating political debate.

In the end, the campaign focused almost entirely on immigration.

Mr Fogh Rasmussen, who was behind in the polls when the snap election was called three weeks ago, has now pledged to run a broad-based administration.

"Uniting the Danish people is a great challenge. The necessary reforms must be carried out with support from a broad spectrum of political parties," he said.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Nyrup Rasmussen: Refusing to resign as party leader
But he will probably not find much co-operation from the left wing parties in parliament.

The Social Democrats had a disastrous election, losing 11 out of 63 seats in parliament.

Social Democrats have already begun analysing the reasons for their defeat.

"The Danes had a wish for change - for new faces - after nine years with the same people in power," the Minister of Tax Affairs, Frode Sorensen, said.

Analysts also point to the fact that the party spent more energy during the campaign attacking the opposition, than actually explaining their own policies.

I will not run away with my tail between my legs - the party will raise itself again

Outgoing PM Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
As soon as the disappointing result was known, speculation began on whether defeated Prime Minister Rasmussen would resign as party leader.

But Mr Rasmussen, visibly moved, refused.

"I will not run away with my tail between my legs. The party will raise itself again," he declared, before striking up an old labour battle song.

The election was historical in a number of ways.

Eighty-seven per cent of Danes participated in the polls, which is almost as many as the biggest turnout ever in 1943, during the German occupation.

We are in charge now

Far-right leader Pia Kjaersgaard
The election's other great winner was the extreme right wing party, Dansk Folkeparti. It gained nine new seats, taking its total in parliament to 22 of the 179 seats.

Even though the MPs will not be invited to be part of the government, their support will be heavily relied on by Mr Fogh Rasmussen.

"We are in charge now," Dansk Folkeparties leader Pia Kjaersgaard declared, and promised to work hard for stricter policy towards immigration and refugees.

There is a hypnotic concern with immigration issues in Denmark, which we haven't seen anywhere else, except from Austria

Professor Ole Borre, Aahhus University
This underlines what many commentators predicted before the elections - that xenophobia has had a great impact on how the Danes chose to vote.

"It is obvious to compare the situation with the one in Austria, even though Dansk Folkeparti will not take part in the government as Joerg Haider did," says Professor Ole Borre, of Aarhus University.

"There is a hypnotic concern with immigration issues in Denmark, which we haven't seen anywhere else, except from Austria."

At the same time, the election was the first-ever for a Dane with an immigrant background to enter the Danish parliament.

Thirty-eight-year-old Naser Khader, who has a Syrian background, said: "It is a great victory for me and for the integration policy in Denmark. It sends a signal, that Denmark not solely xenophobic."

Danish journalist Lali Hofman
"It's a big change for Denmark"
See also:

21 Nov 01 | Europe
Rasmussen v Rasmussen
31 Oct 01 | Europe
Danish PM calls snap election
19 Nov 01 | Europe
Danes undecided as polls loom
22 Aug 01 | Europe
Danes criticise immigrant list
09 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Denmark
01 Jun 02 | Europe
Europe guages Danish no vote
28 Sep 00 | Europe
Danes say no to euro
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