Danish voters give nod to PM's immigration and economic success


Wed Nov 14, 6:38 AM ET

COPENHAGEN (AFP) - Voters in Denmark gave a nod of approval to the centre-right government's strict immigration policy and economic success by re-electing the bloc to a third term, observers said on Wednesday.

But Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will need to look to a new, small centre-right party as well as a far-right ally to bolster his Liberal-Conservative coalition on some issues after ending up with a slim one-seat majority in parliament from Tuesday's elections.

"Voters sent a clear signal that they want Anders Fogh Rasmussen to lead the government, but at the same time the result shows they want broader political solutions," the conservative daily Berlingske Tidende wrote in an editorial.

"It will be a less stable government than before," Copenhagen University political scientist Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard told AFP.

Rasmussen's Liberal-Conservative minority coalition has governed with the informal support in parliament of the far-right Danish People's Party (DPP) since 2001, an alliance due to continue.

Since coming to power it has introduced some of the most restrictive immigration laws in Europe, drastically reducing the number of refugees coming to Denmark from 10,000 in 2001 to fewer than 2,000 last year.

The DPP was one of the election's big winners, cementing its position as the third-largest party after campaigning virulently against Muslims and for freedom of expression in the wake of last year's global row over the publication in a Danish newspaper of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

"The DPP's success is attributed to the fact it has been very consistent on the immigration issue. It managed to mobilise a part of the electorate that doesn't normally vote and which is very preoccupied by immigration issues," Aalborg University political scientist Johannes Andersen said.

The newly-created centre-right New Alliance party, headed by 44-year-old Syrian-born Naser Khader, had hoped to win enough votes to free Rasmussen of his dependence on the far-right.

The party, which has called for a more humane refugee policy and tax cuts, won five seats in parliament.

Rasmussen, whose own Liberal party suffered an election setback by losing six seats, was expected to seek out New Alliance's informal support in parliament, Kurrild-Klitgaard said.

"He will likely have a loose agreement with New Alliance, consulting them on a case-by-case basis and sounding them out on individual policies" to ensure a majority to pass legislation in parliament.

But the prime minister will have to walk a tricky line, he noted, balancing the anti-immigrant far-right on the one hand and New Alliance on the other.

The two parties have diametrically opposed views, particularly on the hot topic of refugees and asylum seekers.

"It will be a less stable government than before. There's a risk of head-on collisions," Kurrild-Klitgaard said.