Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Former Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark
Date of Birth : 15 May 1964
Birth Place: Vejle, Denmark
Political Party : Venstre
Arrival in Power : 5 April 2009
Lars Lokke Rasmussen was born in Vejle, Denmark, in 1964. He is the current Prime Minister of Denmark. He obtained a law degree from the University of Copenhagen. Before beginning his political career he was a consultant. He served as minister of health and the interior in 2001 until 2007. In 2007 he became minister of finance. In 2009 he was named prime minister.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Former Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark
Anders Fogh Rasmussen (born January 26, 1953) is the former Prime Minister of Denmark (in Danish Statsminister, meaning State Minister). Faroe Islands is an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark.
He is the leader of the Liberal Party. He leads a right-wing coalition of his Liberal (Venstre) Party and the Conservative People’s Party which took office in 2001, and won their second term in 2005. His government has made a major reform of the structure of government in Denmark, including tough measures designed to limit the number of immigrants coming to Denmark, and freezing the rates of existing taxes. Taxes have been lowered but the Conservatives repeatedly argue for more tax cuts. As of 1 January 2007, an administrative reform has been implemented slashing the number of municipalities and replacing the thirteen counties with five regions. Rasmussen has referred to this as the biggest reform in thirty years. Furthermore, a reform of the police- and judicialsystems is as of 1 January 2007 being implemented changing the numbers of policedistricts and city courts from 54 to 12 and 82 to 22, respectively.
Rasmussen has been embroiled in the controversy of the Muhammad cartoons which initially were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Rasmussen was born in 1953 in Ginnerup, Jutland and has been active in politics most of his life. He has authored several books and has three children.
He has held numerous positions in government and opposition throughout his career, first winning a seat in the Folketing 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 court of enquiry had decided that he had deliberately provided the Folketing with inaccurate and incomplete information. Rasmussen disagreed with the findings of the commission, but faced with the threat of a no-confidence motion, he decided to leave his posts voluntarily.
Rasmussen held the rotating presidency of the European Union from July to December 2002 during which he proved his dedication to a pro-EU agenda and the guiding principles of the Ellemann-Jensen doctrine, also pursuing it to its logical conclusion of publicly denouncing the Danish collaboration policy during its second World War occupation as the first Danish prime minister ever. While his predecessors had not been in favour of it, they had all implicitly maintained that it was ‘a good thing’, because it had saved Danish lives.
During the EU presidency he was involved in a curious episode with then Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. In a joint press conference on 4 October 2002 Silvio Berlusconi said: “Rasmussen is the most handsome prime minister in Europe. I think I will introduce him to my wife because he is even more handsome than Cacciari”. Massimo Cacciari is an Italian philosopher and centrist politician opposing Berlusconi, and some gossip tabloids had alleged an affair between him and Berlusconi’s second wife Veronica Lario.  Rasmussen was puzzled by this remark and Berlusconi quickly told him he’d explain later.
Early political career
Mr. Rasmussen became a member of the danish parliment (Folketinget) 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.
Resignation as minister of taxation
In 1992 Rasmussen resigned from his ministerial posts after a report from a commission of enquiry 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 no-confidence motion, he decided to leave his posts voluntarily.
His Liberal (Venstre) Party won power in the November 2001 election, defeating the 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 the Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party). Since then, Venstre has operated in coalition with the Conservative People’s Party to form a minority government with the parliamentary support of Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party), surviving the 2005 election. Rasmussen’s government’s agenda is significantly more right wing than has been the case in Denmark for a long time and thus continues the break with the consensus policy of gathering a broad majority for policies that began under Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. He 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.
The Prime Minister is known for having written the book Fra socialstat til minimalstat (literally: From social state to minimal state), where he advocates an extensive reform of the Danish welfare system, along classic liberal lines, i.e. lower taxes, less government interference in corporate and individual matters etc. In 1993 he was awarded the Adam Smith award by the libertarian society Libertas, partly on account of his authoring Fra socialstat til minimalstat. However, after becoming Prime Minister, Rasmussen has distanced himself tremendously from his earlier writings and has announced the death of liberalism during the national elections of 2005. Commonly recognized as being inspired by the 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 cancelling Fogh Rasmussen’s award as a result of this, though this never happened. Like Tony Blair he has also participated in the secretive Bilderberg group, Fogh participated in the 2000 meeting and the 2003 meeting.
War in Iraq
As Prime Minister, Rasmussen strongly supported the 2003 Iraq War. As in most European countries he faced considerable opposition. Subsequent opinion polls suggested the Danish population’s opinion was split on the issue. One vocal opponent gained entrance to the Danish parliament where he poured red paint on the prime minister during the lead up to the war while yelling “Du har blod på dine hænder” (literally: “You have blood on your hands”). In the months after the war, Danish troops participated in the multi-national force stationed in Iraq. Approximately 550 Danish troops were stationed in Iraq throughout 2004 and into 2005 at “Camp Dannevang” near Basra. When the current contingent of troops leaves around august 2007, it will not be replaced and Denmark will shift it’s focus to non-military support in Iraq. The official reason being the Iraqi government should then be able to handle the security in the Basra area. Whether this is the reason, or it is caused by the dwindling domestic support for the war is subject of much debate.
In 2004 Rasmussen’s government came under scrutiny over questions of how much intelligence it had with regard to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The government held hearings, and was forced to publish classified reports it had consulted about the likelihood of banned weapons existing in Iraq. While the Blair and Bush administrations have been subject to criticism for extended periods for their reliance on questionable intelligence, Rasmussen has managed to stay clear of this potential government crisis. This is probably largely due to the fact, that the motion passed by parliament (Folketinget) authorising the deployment of Danish troops, states as the reason for the deployment Iraq’s continued refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors in violation of the UN Security Council’s resolution. The Danish deployment of troops was thus formally not based on a claim that Iraq had WMD’s.
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”.
The Danish Defence Intelligence Service (FE) had produced a classified report stating that it had no absolute proof of WMDs in Iraq. Rasmussen had access to this report and used it in other parts of his reasoning. Since the presence of WMDs in Iraq has been seriously questioned, Rasmussen has focused almost exclusively on the tyrannical nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime. However, for the past two years he has refused to give interviews about Denmark’s participation in the Iraq-war.
A former FE analyst, Major Frank Grevil, was sentenced to four months in prison for leaking the information to the press. Grevil argues that Rasmussen has either lied about or misunderstood the content of the secret reports in his argumentation to Parliament.
During Rasmussen’s administrations, Denmark has also deployed troops to both Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo. All three missions have 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 has said it should be up to religious communities to decide whether to perform ceremonies for gay couples. Anders Fogh Rasmussen caused controversy in his support for gay marriage as he made it clear his support was ‘personal’ rather than based on his role as prime minister.
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 incessantly 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 growth in the prices of real estate. The tax of real property is actually stopped at a nominal level – not relatively. That is, while the rate was one percent when the tax stop was invoked, the real tax is much less today given the last few years’ large increase in property value (+20%/p.a. in large cities). The Danish Economic Council has criticized this as unfairly benefiting current homeowners.
Even though the total tax burden is marginally higher in 2005 than in 2001, the tax stop is enormously popular among the voters. Thus, in January 2005, the Social Democrats announced that it accepts the tax stop until at least one right-wing party is willing to engage 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 aforementioned political left wing), public spending has continued to rise by approximately 1% above inflation, per 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 go 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 his term was the introduction of municipal reform, which followed a series of small municipalities being placed under state administration for overspending and a much spoken about case (in Denmark) about a municipality 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 to five regions (regioner) from the thirteen counties (amter). Also the number of municipalities was reduced from 271 to 98. Also, the responsibilities of municipalities and counties changed significantly, especially with regard to health care delivery.