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Social Democrats Banking on Economy in Danish Elections

September 20, 1994

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ With few hot issues and the economy in good shape, Danish voters seem ready to keep the Social Democrats in power in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections.

″Candidates are only fighting over who’ll take over, which is making the whole business a bit boring,″ said shopkeeper Alice Holmgaard.

The campaign was quiet, in contrast to the 1980s, when hard economic times and disputes over NATO ties fueled rancor among parties.

Quarrels sparked by referendums in 1992 and 1993 on closer European Union cooperation seem over. This year, most of the parties are aligned on the major problems, and the economic outlook is solid.

″They all say the same,″ said plumber Lars Hansen. ″They want to reduce welfare costs without depreciating it and maintain the good economy.″

Although no issue has stood out, debate has focused on cuts in the welfare system, a refugee influx, unemployment and the environment. The election is required by law, unlike past ballots that were forced by bickering.

The national ballot will be the first for the prime minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, who took office in 1993 without an election after the Conservative prime minister resigned in a scandal over the issuing of visas.

Nyrup Rasmussen has tried to hold together his Social Democratic-led coalition with help from three center parties.

The Conservative-Liberal opposition is ready to take over and continue ″the good economic results we started,″ said Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, the Liberal leader.

He was referring to the decade of Conservative-led minority governments that preceded Nyrup Rasmussen’s four-party Cabinet until 1993.

Today, Denmark has one of Europe’s soundest economies, with annual inflation of about two percent and economic growth about 3 percent. Unemployment at 12 percent is the only economic blight.

Nine parties - ranging from Marxists to anti-tax crusaders - are each guaranteed equal television time, regardless of their strength.

About 3.9 million people are eligible to vote in this nation of 5.1 million. Turnout has averaged 85 percent since 1945.

A Gallup poll Monday gave the four-party Cabinet combined support from 43.5 percent of the respondents, ahead of the Conservatives and Liberals, who had a combined total of 38.1 percent.

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