Position: Prime Minister of Denmark
Incumbent: Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Date of Birth: Dec. 14, 1966
Term: Began Oct. 3, 2011
-- Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt led her "Red bloc"
alliance to victory in a September 2011 election to end a decade
of centre-right rule and become Denmark's first woman prime
-- She rose to power by persuading voters she could fix the
economy, struggling to recover from its worst economic crisis
since the Second World War, by kickstarting growth with new
investment but without putting Denmark into a debt spiral.
-- As opposition leader and in the campaign to unseat
Liberal Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, she led her Social
Democratic Party into the middle of the political spectrum on
many issues, including immigration.
-- After the election, she formed a coalition government of
the Social Democratic Party, the Socialist People's Party and
Social Liberals which included many novices in cabinet posts.
-- Her government relies for parliamentary support on the
leftist Red-Green Alliance party, which disagreed during the
election campaign on many points of economic policy. The tension
inherent in that broad coalition are seen as potential pitfall.
-- Her government has adopted plans to stimulate growth and
create jobs by investing in education and infrastructure.
-- Thorning-Schmidt took charge in the autumn of 2011 just
as the European debt and economic crisis deepened, casting a
shadow also over the Danish economy's recovery prospects.
-- Her government proposed a 2012 budget with a public
sector deficit of 96 billion Danish crowns ($17.2 billion),
equal to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product, above the
European Union's deficit limit of 3 percent.
-- Her party leadership hung in the balance after she lost
the 2007 election to another Rasmussen, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
But Thorning-Schmidt recovered to forge a centre-left alliance
capable of winning power.
-- In 2005 she went against the advice of her father-in-law,
Neil Kinnock, the former British Labour Party leader and
European commissioner, not to "pick up the shirt" and stand for
the leadership to unite a fractured party. In April 2005,
Thorning-Schmidt was elected head of the Social Democrats just
two months after she won a seat in parliament.
-- She served one term in the European Parliament after
being elected in 1999 but chose not to seek re-election and
instead got into domestic politics.
-- Her husband, Stephen Kinnock, is the son of Neil and
Glenys Kinnock, and a director at the World Economic Forum in
-- On her way to the top, Thorning-Schmidt fought to shake
off an image in the media of an upper-class blonde socialite --
with expensive handbags and the nickname "Gucci Helle", which
infuriated her and many other Danish women.
-- She defended sending her eldest daughter to private
school and battled with the Danish media over its prying into
her and her husband's tax affairs.
-- She grew up in a Copenhagen suburb, the daughter of
divorced parents, gaining an interest in politics in high
school, where she was active in peace movements and supported
the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.
-- Thorning-Schmidt studied political science at the
University of Copenhagen, taking a particular interest in the
European Union. She also studied at the European College in
Bruges in Belgium, where she met her husband.