Denmark's election at a glance

AP News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2011 11:38 AM
Denmark's election at a glance

EU and NATO member Denmark is holding parliamentary elections Thursday. Here's a look at the key issues and candidates.

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WHAT'S AT STAKE: A center-right coalition in power for the past 10 years is facing a strong challenge from a left-wing opposition bloc led by the Social Democrats. Though Denmark has not joined the eurozone, the debt crisis has raised concerns about Denmark's future growth, and both blocs have presented plans to boost the economy by reviving Denmark's sluggish property market. The opposition also wants to increase taxes on banks and the wealthy and raise VAT on cigarettes and junk food.

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MAIN PLAYERS: Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, 47, is considered a skilled politician at home, but his international reputation was tarnished by his weak leadership at the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. His main rival is Social Democratic leader Helle Thorning Schmidt, 44, who aims to become Denmark's first female prime minister. Another key player is Pia Kjaersgaard, the 64-year-old head of the nationalist Danish People's Party, which as a government ally has helped make Denmark's immigration laws some of Europe's toughest.

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BY THE NUMBERS: There are 804 candidates, most of them on party lists, vying for the 179 seats in Parliament. Four of those seats are reserved for the semiautonomous territories of Greenland and the Faeroe Islands. Parties must get at least 2 percent of the vote to win seats in the legislature. Of Denmark's 5.6 million people, just over 4 million are eligible to vote. Turnout usually is high and reached 86.6 percent in 2007.

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DID YOU KNOW: The names of Danish political parties can be confusing for outsiders. The prime minister's party is called "Venstre," which means "left" in Danish, but it's considered right of center on the political scale. Then you have the middle-of-the-road "Radikale Venstre," literally meaning "radical left." It changed its official English name to the "Social Liberal Party" to avoid being mistaken internationally for an ultra-leftist party. The Danish party names are more than 100 years old and reflect the political scale of a time when anyone opposing the aristocracy was considered a leftist.