Denmark elects first female prime minister

Denmark has elected its first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the leader of the center-left Social Democrat Party. The election ends a decade of rule by outgoing Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen’s right-wing government.

“Today is the day things change in Denmark,” Thorning-Schmidt said at a party rally in Copenhagen, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “This evening we’ve shown that the Social Democrats are a big and driving force in Denmark. We’ve written history today.”’

Thorning-Schmidt’s Social Democrat-led bloc has won 92 seats in the country’s 179-seat parliament, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, with more than 99 percent of the votes counted. Outgoing Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen’s group will have 87 seats.

Thorning-Schmidt told voters she would increase public spending and raise taxes on banks and the wealthy. The outgoing government had promoted tough immigration laws and pro-market reforms.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports:

Announcing the election on Aug. 26, Rasmussen evoked the specter of a deepening European fiscal crisis and warned voters they face a “clear choice: uncontrolled debt or sustainable welfare.” Thorning-Schmidt said the same day the state needs to deploy more public funds, arguing that “without growth we can’t pay down our debt, and without growth there’s no money for welfare.”

One Thorning-Schmidt proposal that caught the public’s attention: She said she would make everyone work 12 minutes more per day, which would add up to an extra hour of productivity each week and spark economic growth, Reuters reports.

Thorning-Schmidt, 44, is married to Stephen Kinnock, the son of British Labor Party politicians Neil and Glenys Kinnock, BBC News reports.

According to Reuters:

On her way to the top, Thorning-Schmidt fought to shake off an image in the media of an upper-class blonde socialist with expensive handbags and the nickname "Gucci Helle."

The nickname infuriated the normally composed Thorning-Schmidt, who once replied to one critical colleague: "Don't call me 'Gucci' just because I'm not walking around looking like a sack of shit like you."

She defended sending her eldest daughter to private school and battled with the Danish media for prying into her and her husband Stephen Kinnock's tax affairs.

"Tonight I hand over the keys to the prime minister's office to Helle Thorning-Schmidt,” Rasmussan said, according to BBC News. “And dear Helle, take good care of them. You're only borrowing them."