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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 10:44 GMT
Q&A: Denmark's election
Danish PM Fogh Rasmussen (L) and challenger Mogens Lykketoft
Bookmakers' odds favour Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen (left)

Danish voters go to the polls on Tuesday to vote in a general election called at short notice by centre-right Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.


Why is the election being held now?

Mr Fogh Rasmussen is said to have called the election due to the centre-right's popularity in opinion polls. The Folketing, the Danish parliament, was also facing the lengthy process of reforming local government, which was expected to take six months and would have prevented the prime minister going to the polls until the autumn.

The election comes just over three years after the outgoing parliament was elected on 20 November 2001, when Mr Fogh Rasmussen's Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party took power and formed a government supported by the far-right Danish People's Party.

What parties are standing and who are the potential prime ministers?

There are two electoral blocs. The right is represented by the Liberals and Conservatives, who were supported by the far-right Danish People's Party in the last parliament. The Danish People's Party was not invited to formally join the coalition because of its policy of withdrawing from the EU, but strongly influenced government policy, particularly on immigration. The Social Democrats form the core of the centre-left and are supported by the Socialist People's Party and the anti-EU Unity List.

The Liberal leader, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is the centre-right candidate and is strongly favoured to remain head of government.

His Social Democrat challenger, Mogens Lykketoft, succeeded former Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen as party leader in 2002.

There are three small parties in the political centre - the Danish Social-Liberal Party, Centre Democrats and Christian Democrats - all of which have previously featured in both centre-left and centre-right coalitions.

The newly-formed Minority Party and Retsforbundet (the League for Justice) are also contesting the election on a shared platform but seem very unlikely to gain representation.

What is the electoral system?

The Folketing has 179 members, with 175 being elected in Denmark while the North Atlantic territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands both return two members. Of the 175 members, 135 are elected in multi-member constituencies and 40 are supplementary members who do not represent a constituency but reflect their party's share of the overall vote. In order to be represented a party must pass the 2 per cent threshold for representation, which will give it four members of parliament.

The "magic number" which guarantees a parliamentary majority is 90.

What are the central campaign themes?

Both of the main political blocs have initially targeted families with young children, promising cheaper day-care institutions and increased child benefit.

A survey of voters identified the integration of immigrants, employment and care for the elderly as the top issues, with immigration and health care also featuring prominently. The parties themselves are also emphasising increased research and improving Denmark's public-sector schools.

What are the domestic implications?

Most commentators agree that there is little to choose between the main blocs' policy proposals and that the electorate will return the government which they feel is more likely to turn their ideas into action.

What are the international implications?

The outcome is unlikely to affect Denmark's relationship with the European Union as both sides are committed to holding a referendum on the new EU Constitution. The Socialist People's Party endorsed the Constitution at the end of last year after a lengthy internal debate, leaving only the Danish People's Party, the Unity List and the Minority Party/Retsforbundet committed to Denmark withdrawing from the EU.

However, a victory for the centre-left might lead to Danish troops being pulled out of Iraq more quickly, with Social Democrat leader Mogens Lykketoft having said he would like to see a Danish withdrawal as soon as possible and preferably by 1 July and the Socialist People's Party having made their support for a Social Democrat-led government conditional on Denmark pulling out.

What are the opinion polls saying?

Opinion polls have consistently given the Right a convincing majority, possibly by as much as 100 seats to 75. The four north Atlantic mandates are not covered by opinion polls.

One poll showed that half of Social Democrat voters feel Mr Fogh Rasmussen is a better leader than the SDP's Mogens Lykketoft and this is reflected in the bookmakers' odds on who will be Danish prime minister after the poll. One firm quotes Mr Fogh Rasmussen at 1/10 on with Mr Lykketoft at 5/1. Another gives Mr Lykketoft a slightly better chance, pricing him at 39/10, with Rasmussen quoted at 3/20 on.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




SEE ALSO:
The press in Denmark
01 Dec 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Denmark
30 Jan 05 |  Country profiles


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