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article imageDenmark's first female leader names cabinet, sets agenda

By Bradley Axmith     Oct 4, 2011 in World
Copenhagen - The new prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, will present today her government’s version of events in the Scandinavian kingdom along with her vision for the future under her direction.
Her inaugural speech in parliament comes after more than two weeks of negotiations with the two other political parties that join Denmark’s first female prime minister in wresting power after a decade in the political cold.
Outside the Queen’s residence in downtown Copenhagen, where the incoming government presented their coalition agreement, ‘A Denmark That Stands Together’, 23 newly minted ministers emerged for a photo opportunity.
“It is with great pleasure that I present the new government. My focus is on the work ahead. I’m looking forward to get to work. This is the best team to get Denmark through this crisis. All jobs have been given to the strongest people, who are ready to get to work,” the prime minister declared outside the Queen’s residence in Copenhagen.
Controversy dogged the closed-door negotiations with accusations flying from the Facebook pages of some of the outgoing ministers, as well some of the government’s own party members.
Henrik Sass Larsen was likely to gain a powerful ministry but could not be approved by the country’s security apparatus due the biker connection his boyhood friends maintain, which elicited former integration minister Soren Pind to castigate Thorning-Schmidt for a liar, covering up for her longtime ally.
Pernille Vigsoe Bagge of the Socialists, the junior partner in the government, wrote of the coalition agreement on her Facebook status that she considered quitting the party and that the new government was a ‘flop’.
Bagge, the party’s whip, verbally lacerated the coalition leaders for giving Manu Sareen the Ecclesiastical portfolio given his inexperience and lack of knowledge with the country’s national Church organization, in which all Danes gain membership from birth.
Rumours otherwise foresaw the ministry under her aegis until the results of negotiations were made public.
Pernille Frahm, also of the Socialists, did not mince words when she criticized the choice of 26-year old Thor Moger Pedersen as new minister for tax and customs.
“Normally when one taps a minister, it is done so from a party’s fundamental political position and speaks of their assumptions as minister,” Frahm railed.
Frahm was reacting to news that the ‘millionaire tax’ her party campaigned on would not be implemented. Furthermore Pedersen would oversee a small relief in income taxe applied to the top earners in Denmark, raising her ire.
In the September 15 election, both the Socialists and Thorning-Schmidt’s Social Democrats lost both popular votes and mandates in the Danish parliament, the ‘Folketing,’ demanding a painfully long list of compromises with the Social Liberals on fiscal matters where the latter previously cooperated with the outgoing centre-right coalition against the ire of its traditional partners.
Along with scrapping the Socialists’ and Social Dems’ millionaire tax, the coalition framework also drops their plan to increase productivity by instituting 12 more working minutes a day, and their promise to restore early retirement eligibility.
The Social Libs on the other hand were required to swallow some notable concessions on immigration and housing for the duration of the first election cycle, meaning until the next election is held in four years or before should the minority government fall.
That would require the Red-Green Party to retract its support from the government, an unlikely occurrence given their animosity to the outgoing government. The prime minister’s rule will nonetheless will endure the Social Libs pulling one way on fiscal matters and the Red-Greens, who oppose financial capitalism, threatening to pull the rug out from under Miss Thorning-Schmidt the other way.
Her party controls 11 ministries in the new cabinet, while the Socialists and the Social Libs each will run 6.
The foreign ministry will go to Villy Soenvdal, the leader of the Socialists and the leader of the Social Libs, Margrethe Vestager gets command of the economy and interior ministries.
Among other key components of the cabinet is the newly established Ministry of European Affairs to coincide with Denmark’s tenure as President of the European Union, and the dissolution of the Ministry of Integration, Refugees and Asylum, the responsibilities of which will be divvied up between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Justice Ministry.
European affairs will take particular prominence, evidenced in Miss Thorning-Schmidt’s announcement that Denmark will scrap the permanent placement customs control along its borders, winning immediate praise from her German neighbours.
“This is a decision in favour of liberty for European citizens,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement.
Overall the prime minister leads a coalition supported by the Red-Greens and represents 52% of Danes who voted in the September 15 election, or 89 seats to the oppositions 86, meaning she cannot afford to stray too far from the centre.
9 of 23 ministers are woman, one minister is the youngest in Denmark’s history (Thor Moger Pedersen, 26), Manu Sareen is the country’s first minister with non-Danish ethnicity to join a cabinet, while Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt becomes the Kingdom’s first top civil servant.
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