It is a very rare feat these days for a Social Democratic party to come to power, but in September the Danish Socialists achieved it. Party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt is, however, far from triumphant. Her majority is extremely wobbly and she has had to drop all her electoral promises, one by one.

Thorning-Schmidt was long seen by Danish voters as slightly too young, slightly too glamorous. Her arrival in government did not happen because Danes had changed their minds about her, but was maybe more about wanting to see the back of the Conservative-Liberal government, which had run the country for ten years. In the September 2011 elections, the Social Democrats actually lost a percentage point and ended up as a smaller party than the outgoing Venstre (Conservatives).

When saying goodbye to the Conservatives this time around, Danish voters also said a firm goodbye to Danske Folkeparti, the xenophobic party, which has dominated Danish politics for over a decade.

There was to be no political honeymoon for the Danish Social Democrats, taking over a country with an excessive budget deficit, too high public indebtedness, a looming property bubble, a shaky bank sector and growing unemployment (over 6%). In the sober reality after the election night party, Thorning-Schmidt had to accept that she had no majority, not even with the support of the left Socialistisk Folkeparti that she had campaigned alongside. Her government now consists of the left and the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), but even so commands a majority in the parliament only if supported by yet another leftist party, Enhedslisten (Unity List).

This helps to explain the somewhat chaotic impression the new government is giving in public. The first three months in power have brought with it several differences of opinion as well as fights between government ministers. Political commentators marvel at a government where one minister makes a moving speech about the poor and another says on the record that the poor should get off their butt and look for a job.

Attempting an austerity budget for 2012 and winning a political majority for it in these circumstances - and for the first time ever having the ex-Communists of Enhedslisten vote yes' to a national budget - was therefore seen as a real achievement for Thorning-Schmidt.

To do so, she had to incorporate some Enhedslisten demands, such as cheaper fertility treatment for childless couples and holidays for people on welfare, all the...

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