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'The First': Danish media hails arrival of woman PM

Denmark's first female Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, daughter-in-law of former British Labour party leader, wins Denmark's general elections, putting her center-left bloc in power after 10 years in opposition

AFP , Friday 16 Sep 2011
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Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt celebrates at the party's election headquarters in Copenhagen (Reuters)
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Danish media on Friday hailed the arrival of the country's first woman prime minister, a day after Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her centre-left bloc narrowly won general elections, ending a decade in opposition.

After barely mentioning the Social Democrat chief's gender during the intense three-week campaign leading up to the vote, the main papers on Friday enthused: "Victory of the women!", "The First," and "The Conqueror."

Thorning-Schmidt, the elegant, blond daughter-in-law of former British Labour party leader Neil Kinnock, and her centre-left bloc won 89 seats in the 179-seat parliament, against 86 for outgoing Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen's centre-right government and parliamentary supporters.

Four seats reserved for Denmark's autonomous territories Greenland and the Faroe Islands had yet to be officially tallied and were not yet included in the score, though they were unlikely to reverse the results, according to observers.

Thorning-Schmidt, whose taste for expensive clothes has earned her the nickname "Gucci Helle," "was too well-dressed for the Social Democrats, too fresh to become the head of the country, too cool to win people's hearts (yet now) Helle Thorning-Schmidt will be the country's first woman prime minister," wrote the Politiken daily.

While her own party lost further ground from its disastrous results in 2007 -- its worst since 1906 -- the centre-left victory can be attributed to the fact that Thorning-Schmidt managed the previously unthinkable task of drawing into the same bloc the far-left Red Greens and the centrist and market liberal Social Liberal Party.

Both of those parties are also led by women, and the Information daily hailed the election as "a victory for women."

"It took 96 years from the time Danish women achieved the right to vote until one of them was elected prime minister. Yesterday's election of Helle Thorning Schmidt should be seen as an important step for gender equality -- not least on the symbolic level," the paper said.

While most media seemed thrilled with the idea of a woman prime minister, they all also stressed the challenges she faces as head of a centre-left coalition.

The Social Democrats' traditional partner the Socialist People's Party fared poorly, shedding seven seats, and Thorning-Schmidt will likely need to pull the Social Liberals, to the right of the Social Democrats on the scale, into government while relying heavily on the far-left Red Greens' support to pass bills in parliament.

"She has a tough task ahead," the Berlingske daily said.

Media also remarked on the anticipated consequence of the centre-right government's fall from power: its key parliamentary ally, the far-right Danish People's Party will lose its decade-long hold on Danish immigration policy.

"For the first time in history, the Danish People's Party stands as the election loser. A new reality awaits," Politiken said.

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