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 minister.
— 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 Switzerland.
— 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.