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|Anders Fogh Rasmussen|
|Prime Minister of Denmark|
| Assumed office:|
November 27, 2001
|Preceded by:||Poul Nyrup Rasmussen|
|Minister of Economic Affairs of Denmark|
| In office:|
1987 – 1992
|Cabinet:||Poul Schlüter cabinet|
|Preceded by:||Niels Helveg Petersen|
|Succeeded by:||Thor Pedersen|
|Tax Minister of Denmark|
| In office:|
1987 – 1992
|Cabinet:||Poul Schlüter cabinet|
|Preceded by:||Isi Foighel|
|Succeeded by:||Peter Brixtofte|
|Born:|| January 26, 1953 (age 55)|
|Political party:||Venstre (V)|
|Alma mater:||University of Aarhus|
|Religion:||Lutheran (Church of Denmark)|
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, informally known as Anders Fogh, or simply Fogh, (born January 26, 1953) is the current Prime Minister of Denmark (in Danish Statsminister, meaning Minister of State).
He is the leader of the Liberal Party (Venstre), and heads a centre-right coalition of his Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party which took office in 2001, and won its second and third terms in February 2005 and in November 2007. Like most Danish governments, this is a minority government which relies on the Danish People's Party for support. His government has introduced tougher limits on non-ECA immigration and froze tax rates before he took office (the "tax freeze", or "skattestoppet" in Danish). He has authored several books about taxation and government structure.
Under Fogh, certain taxes have been lowered, but the Conservatives repeatedly argue for more tax cuts and a flat tax rate at no higher than 50%. Fogh implemented an administrative reform reducing the number of municipalities (kommuner) and replacing the thirteen counties (amter) with five regions. Rasmussen has referred to this as "the biggest reform in thirty years". Furthermore, a reform of the police and judiciary systems is being implemented, changing the numbers of police districts and city courts from 54 to 12 and 82 to 22, respectively.
Early life and education
Rasmussen was born in 1953 in Ginnerup, Jutland. He is the son of farmer Knud Rasmussen and his wife Martha Rasmussen (nee Fogh). He was born in Ginnerup Sogn on Djursland, and grew up in the village of Hvidding by Hammershøj, between Randers and Viborg.
He finished his studies in lingustic and social studies at Viborg Katedralskole in 1972. In 1978, he graduated from the University of Aarhus, receiving a bachelor's degree in economics (Cand.oecon., abbrevation of candidatus/candidata oeconomices).
Between 1978 and 1987, he was an consultant in Håndværksrådet (Council of Artisan).
Early political career
A graduate of the University of Aarhus, he has been active in politics most of his life. He has authored several books about taxation and government structure.
In 1970, he was one of the founders of Liberal Ungdom (Liberal Youth), the youth wing of the Liberal Party. Between 1970 and 1972, he was the organisation's chairman. Between 1974 and 1976 he was the leader (Landsformand) of Liberal Ungdom.
Between 1973 and 1978 he was a member of the Liberal party's central board, and again from 1984. Since 1984 he has been the Chairman of the Liberal Party's disclosure committee, and in 1985 he was appointed the party's deputy chairman.
In his early years in Venstres Ungdom) he was often called "Røde Anders" (Red Anders) as he was considered to be relatively leftist-oriented in the organisation, and supported the idea of Economic Democracy. He got rid of the nickname when he was inspired by the Liberal philosopher Robert Nozick in his book Fra socialstat til minimalstat (1993). Most political analysts has agreed that he has since 1993 again moved towards the middle of the political spectre.
Member of Folketing
He has held numerous positions in government and opposition throughout his career, first winning a seat in the Folketing (Danish parliament) in 1978. From 1987-1990 he was Minister for Taxation and from 1990 Minister for Economy and Taxation in the Conservative-led Poul Schlüter government.
In 1992 Rasmussen resigned from his ministerial posts after a report from a commission of inquiry had decided that he had provided the Folketing with inaccurate and incomplete information regarding his decision to postpone payment of several bills from Regnecentralen and Kommunedata from one accounting year to the next. Rasmussen disagreed with the findings of the commission, but faced with the threat of a non-confidence motion, he decided to leave his posts voluntarily.
Danish Folketing Election, 2001
On October 31, 2001, Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen called an early election, shortly after September 11 attacks. Anders Fogh Rasmussen led the Liberal Party in the election, having changed from a liberalist political standpoint to a more centre-right one. The campaign focused mainly on immigration and refugees, which played right into the hands of the Danish People’s Party. There was little debate about the European Union, as the two leaders opinions where largely the same. Two in every three Danes now supported tighter immigration ristrictions, compared to only one in two before September 11.
A minor controversy erupted in the final debate, when Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen began began to pull out all the pages of Anders Fogh Rasmussen's book Fra Socialstat til Minimalstat (1993).
His Liberal (Venstre) Party won power in the election on November 20, 2001, defeating the Social Democratic government of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and enabling him to form the Cabinet of Anders Fogh Rasmussen I. That election marked a dramatic change in Danish politics. It was the first time since 1920 that the Social Democratic Party lost its position as the largest party in the Folketing (parliament), mainly due to a loss of working class votes to Dansk Folkeparti (The Danish People's Party). Since then, Venstre has governed in a parliamentary coalition with the Conservative People's Party to form a minority government with the parliamentary support of Dansk Folkeparti. Together these three parties survived both the 2005 election and the 2007 election.
Prime Minister (2001 - )
In general, Rasmussen is in favour of deregulation, privatization, and limiting the size of government. His government has also enacted tough measures designed to limit the number of immigrants coming to Denmark, specifically as asylumseekers or through arranged marriages.
Rasmussen wrote the book Fra socialstat til minimalstat (literally: From social state to minimal state) in 1993, in which he advocated an extensive reform of the Danish welfare system along classic liberal lines. In particular, he favors lower taxes and less government interference in corporate and individual matters etc. In 1993 he was awarded the Adam Smith award by the libertarian society Libertas, partly due to his having written Fra socialstat til minimalstat. However, after becoming Prime Minister, Rasmussen has distanced himself from his earlier writings and has announced the death of liberalism during the national elections of 2005. Commonly regarded as being inspired by the previous success of Tony Blair, Rasmussen now seems more in favour of the theories of Anthony Giddens and his third way. There was talk in Libertas of revoking Fogh Rasmussen's award as a result of this, though this never happened.
As Prime Minister, Rasmussen has strongly supported U.S. foreign policies under President John McCain and George W. Bush, and has been a strong supporter of NATO and COD operations in Afghanistan and Sudan.
Since 2002, over 750 Danish soldiers participated in the NATO-mandated ISAF force stationed in Afghanistan, only meeting minor political opposition. The main part of the Danish military contribution consists of a battle group, which is currently operating with British forces in the Green Zone in the central part of the Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. The battle group consists of two mechanized infantry companies, a tank platoon and a flight of light reconnaissance helicopters. The battle group also consists of combat support and support units. In the nearby Kandahar Province troops from the Royal Danish Air Force takes part in manning the Kandahar Airfield Crisis Establishment (KAF CE), which is running the airfield. But Danish troops are also deployed to other parts of Afghanistan. In northern Afghanistan app. twenty troops are serving in the German led PRT in Feyzabad. In western Afghanistan ten troops are serving in the Lithuanian led PRT in Chagcharan. There is also a small contribution to HQ ISAF in Kabul and to the staffing of Kabul International Airport. In Helmand Danish troops are involved in the worst fighting their armed forces have undertaken since World War II. Denmark has lost 23 soldiers in Afghanistan, and is thus one of the countries with the largest casualties compared to population numbers.
He was also a strong supporter of the Invasion of Iraq in 2003. As in most European countries he faced some opposition, both in the parliament and in the general population. Subsequent opinion polls suggested the Danish population's opinion was split on the issue. One vocal protester managed to get into the Danish parliament during the period before the war, where he poured red paint on the prime minister while yelling "Du har blod på dine hænder" (literally: "You have blood on your hands").
However, when several intelligence sources found evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, popular support for the invasion increased, and two days before the outbreak of the war over 2/3 of the Danish population was in support of military intervention against Iraq. In a comment to the media Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated as one of the reasons to support a military intervention, “Irak har masseødelæggelsesvåben. Det er ikke noget vi tror. Vi ved det. Irak har selv indrømmet, at det har haft sennepsgas, nervegas, miltbrand, men Saddam vil ikke afregne. Han vil ikke fortælle os, hvor og hvordan de våben er blevet destrueret. Det ved vi fra FN's inspektører, så der er ingen tvivl i mit sind.” (“Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know. Iraq has itself admitted that it has had mustard gas, nerve gas, anthrax, but Saddam won't disclose. He won't tell us where and how these weapons have been destroyed. We know this from the UN inspectors, so there is no doubt in my mind.”)
200 Danish troops participated in the initial phase of the war along with 200 Norwegian troops, and from mid-2003 approximately 550 Danish troops were stationed in Iraq from 2003 and into 2006, first at "Camp Dannevang" and later at "Camp Einherjer", both near Basra. By May 2006, all Danish troops had left Iraq, and Iraqi security forces had taken over responsibility of the security.
During Rasmussen's administrations, Denmark has also deployed troops to Bosnia and Kosovo. These missions have as well only met minor political opposition.
Civil unions between gay couples have been legal in Denmark since 1989. Rasmussen believes that they should be able to be married in religious ceremonies, which is not currently allowed in The Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Denmark, but he has said it should be up to religious communities to decide whether to perform ceremonies for gay couples.
Since the elections in 2001, Venstre, Rasmussen's party, has enacted a total "tax stop". Venstre made a successful campaign convincing the public that the taxes have been growing constantly during the previous eight years under the Social Democrats. While the overall tax burden was more or less unchanged from 1993 until 2001, however, there was a shift in the taxation of income, both corporate and personal over to a higher level on personal consumption (especially through the "ecological taxes" (da. grønne afgifter)), which gave the average citizen the impression of rising taxes.
This tax stop has been under heavy fire from the parties on the left wing of Danish politics, allegedly for being "antisocial" and "only for the rich". Since the tax stop also freezes the tax of real property (da. ejendomsværdiskat, 1%), it is beneficial to the homeowners in the densely populated regions that have experienced an extraordinary increase in the prices of real estate. The tax of real estate is actually limited at a nominal level — not at a relative level. While the rate was one percent when the tax stop was enacted, the actual tax is much less today when the last few years' large increase in property value (+20%/p.a. in large cities) is taken into account. The Danish Economic Council has criticized this as unfairly benefiting current homeowners.
Even though the total tax burden is marginally higher in 2005 than it was in 2001, the tax stop is very popular among the voters. Thus, in January 2005, the Social Democrats announced that it accepts the principle of a tax stop until at least one right-wing party is willing to participate in a tax reform.
The tax stop has, however, been ineffective, judging by Venstre's own intentions. The goal of the tax stop was to halt the growth of public expenditures (and halt the growth of taxes), but even with their cuts in public spending (which has been considered aggressive by the political left wing), public spending has continued to rise by approximately one percentage point above inflation each year.
From 2004 and onwards, minor tax cuts came into effect, on two accounts:
- People with jobs get a 3% tax reduction on the 5.5% "bottom tax" (da. bundskat). This initiative is supposed to encourage people to get off welfare and take jobs instead.
- The bottom limit of the "middle tax" (da. mellemskat) of 6%, is raised by 12.000 DKK every year, over the next four years. This will limit the income stresses of middle incomes and families with children.
Venstre has so far refrained from making statements on the future of the "top tax" (da: topskat) of 15%, and the VAT (da: moms) of 25%.
One of the main initiatives of Rasmussen's government was the introduction of a municipal reform, which resulted in a series of small municipalities being placed under state administration for overspending and a much talked about case (in Denmark) about a municipal mayor who managed to spend lavish amounts of tax money on personal wining and dining. Under the proposal the number of counties (amter) would be reduced from thirteen to five regions (regioner). Also the number of municipalities was reduced from 271 to 98. The responsibilities of municipalities and counties changed significantly too, especially with regard to providing health care.
Danish Folketing election, 2005
On January 18, 2005 Rasmussen called an election for February 8, 2005. He delayed the call by a couple of weeks because of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which killed several Danes. His government had been criticized by a few Danes for what they thought was a slow response to that crisis, although a clear majority applauded the government's way of dealing with the disaster.
Although his party's support was reduced from the 2001 election, resulting in the loss of four seats, Venstre was able to maintain its coalition after the election through gains by other parties, and on February 18 Rasmussen formed the Cabinet of Anders Fogh Rasmussen II.
Rasmussen received the most "personal votes" ever of any politician in the Folketing (Denmark's Parliament) with 61,792.
Muhammad cartoons and Danish goods boycott
A major period of conflict in Rasmussen's political career concerned a set of cartoons printed in Jyllands-Posten, a major Danish newspaper. In September 2005 the newspaper printed a full page with 12 cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, including one in which Muhammad appeared with a bomb in his turban. Some of the schools of the islamic religion do not allow to depict the figure of Mohammed. Many Muslims found the cartoons offensive.
- Eleven envoys of predominantly Muslim states issued demands that the Danish government condemn the cartoons and requested on October 19, 2005 a meeting with Rasmussen to discuss this. Rasmussen refused this request, saying, "That is not how our democracy works." Subsequently, it has been the subject of an intense debate as to whether Rasmussen made a sound, principled decision or displayed misplaced arrogance when refusing to agree to such a meeting.
- As the dispute escalated, Rasmussen was asked to apologise to Muslims on behalf of Denmark. Rasmussen refused this request, saying the government "cannot make apologies on behalf of a Danish newspaper."
- Several months later, a group of Danish-based Muslims organised a trip to various places in the Middle East, spreading information about the cartoons and campaigning for political action against Denmark. This trip was later widely criticised, especially when it became apparent that untrue allegations and fabricated photographs were shown to stir up hostilities towards Denmark.
- The increased media awareness in the Islamic world and domestic political agendas in the regimes across the Middle East fed the controversy. Libya and Saudi Arabia recalled their ambassadors to Denmark, and a campaign was organised in several Islamic countries to boycott Danish products. Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon were attacked during mass demonstrations and torched with molotov cocktails and ransacked. Death threats were made against the Danish cartoonists and the Danish flag was burned.
- Across the world demonstrations were held to protest the cartoons. Several people were killed in chaotic demonstrations in Kabul and Islamabad. In London, a protest demonstration with offensive and threatening placards and banners and speeches later led to year-long prison sentences for four British Muslims for inciting terrorism, spreading hate-filled threats and racist language.
- Rasmussen appeared on the Arabic television network Al-Arabiya and explained that he regretted the offense caused by the cartoons, but that Danish law gave the government no power of censorship over the media. He has stated on numerous occasions, that he supports freedom of speech but he did not approve of the message in these cartoons. He indicated his disapproval after initially stating that he did not want to comment on the cartoons themselves.
Danish Folketing election, 2007
- Main article: Danish parliamentary election, 2007
Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced this election date on October 24, 2007. The election was held ahead of time in the sense that by law, the election needed to be held before February 8, 2009, four years after the previous election.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen explained that the elections were called early in order to allow the parliament to work on important upcoming topics without being distracted by a future election. Referring specifically to welfare reform, he said rival parties would then try to outdo each other with expensive reforms which would damage the Danish economy.
At 11.30 pm on November 13, 2007, the day of the election, Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed victory on the basis of almost complete results. By the morning of November 14, 2007, after results came through from the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Fogh Rasmussen's centre-right coalition of the Liberals, the Conservative People's Party and the Danish People's Party had obtained the 90 seats required for him to continue as Prime Minister. He thus becomes the longest-ruling Liberal Prime Minister of Denmark. His party's support also improved from the 2005 election, resulting in the gain of six seats.
Rasmussen is married to pedagogue Anne-Mette. The couple resides in Nærum. Together they have three children. Their oldest, Henrik Fogh Rasmussen, has proven himself as a community debater, including with the book Amerikanske Tilstande.
As an amateur cyclist, Rasmussen completed part of the notorious Alpe d'Huez stage of the 2008 Tour de France the day after the professional race took place. His attendance at Le Tour was at the invitation of lauded Danish former cyclist Bjarne Riis.