Danish victor hits back at smears after “historic” win

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Series Details Vol.7, No.43, 22.11.01, p1-2
Publication Date 22/11/2001
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Date: 22/11/01

DANISH Liberal Party leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen has dismissed as "outrageous" fears that the new government he is expected to form will be a hostage to the far right.

Fogh Rasmussen has pledged a crackdown on benefit payments for immigrants in the wake of his landslide victory in this week"s general election. Suggestions he played the "race card" to win the election have stirred unease in some member states. But Fogh Rasmussen said claims that his immigration policies might harm his country"s relations with the European Union were ridiculous.

His Liberal (Venstre) party and its conservative allies swept to power in Tuesday's poll (20 November), winning a total of 98 out of the 175 seats in the Danish Folketing. It was the first time the Liberals had eclipsed the Social Democrats since the 1920s.

The defeated Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen - no relation to his likely successor - formally submitted his resignation to Queen Margrethe yesterday (21 November). The longest-serving premier in the EU, he had taken a gamble by calling a snap election three weeks ago - hoping to ride a wave of popularity following his robust response to the 11 September atrocities.

The final shape of Denmark's new government will depend on inter-party talks over the next few days.

But to command a majority in parliament, the proposed coalition will almost certainly require the informal support of the right-wing anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP) whose leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, has likened the influx of refugees and immigrants to an invasion.

The prospect of a Liberal-DPP pact led former foreign affairs minister Niels Helveg Petersen to warn that "measureless damage" could be done to the country's overseas reputation and its relationship with the EU. But Fogh Rasmussen was quick to allay such fears yesterday.

His spokesman ruled out the possibility of the DPP joining the new government coalition.

He said Fogh Rasmussen was delighted at the size of his party's "historic" victory and "honoured" that Denmark would be holding the EU presidency in the second half of 2002.

Christian Lindhardt, senior Brussels correspondent with the respected Danish newspaper Politiken, also played down the likely impact of the DPP in the coming months: "I can't see it having a big influence.

"The Danish EU presidency will focus more on issues like enlargement, agriculture and the environment," he said.

A spokesman for the Danish Representation to the EU said it was too early to draw conclusions on the new government or what policies it would pursue. European Commission President Romano Prodi, who is on an official visit to India, sent a message of congratulations to Fogh Rasmussen.

European Parliament presidential candidate Pat Cox, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, also hailed the victory.

He said: "It is our hope that the Danish EU presidency will bring closure to the enlargement negotiations with the largest number of candidate states."

Fogh Rasmussen, an economics graduate, is married with a son and two daughters, aged 17, 21 and 2

Danish Liberal Party leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen has dismissed as 'outrageous' fears that the new government he is expected to form will be a hostage to the far right.

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