So it's election time again in Denmark...hold your nose

So November 13 is the magic day - the culmination of what will be a whirlwind 20 days of flat out campaigning. There is a certain charm that is the election process in Denmark - I've been through a couple of them since living here. Within hours of an election call, the leaders of all the parties are assembled (even the minority parties with no seats in parliament) and debating the issues in front of the cameras for television.

Consider the mess in the U.S. where weeks are spent negotiating the rules of the debate, with each side trying to get the upper hand based upon their perceived strengths. Or in Canada where the few significant fringe parties (with no elected members of parliament) are endlessly pushing for the right to participate in any televised debates, and the mainstream parties are endlessly pushing for the right to exclude them.

No, in Denmark the whole process is characteristically quick and efficient, with the television station basically dictating the rules of the game - since no self-respecting leader would dare spurn the opportunity to join the live debates.

There is both a lot at stake in this election, or not much at all - depending upon where you sit and how you see things.

It seems that it would take an epic cock-up for the government to be unseated. Then again, when you've placed your bets on a racist party to prop up your government as an unofficial coalition partner (as this government has for the past 6 years in office), well, frankly all bets for the future are off.

It breaks down like this: the average Dane is loath to admit that a vote for either Venstre or Konservative, the 2 governing parties, is tantamount to jumping into bed with a bunch of racists. But it is.

Still, it's a sweet deal if you can stomach the racist stench. The government has done a commendable job keeping the economy purring over the past 6 years - by most accounts there is a overall shortage of qualified staff in Denmark, meaning companies are scrambling to find the employees the need to fill vacant positions. Which means Joe Average in Denmark has it pretty good, in spite of the high taxes (which the government has managed to slightly reduce, it should also be noted).

Unfortunately, on the human scale, this government is an embarrassment.

The act of virtually cutting off the flow of Iraqi refugees to Denmark over the past years, through neat little legalistic tricks that make it virtually impossible for such refugees to gain asylum here, while simultaneously Maersk, the largest Danish company, rakes in literally billions thanks to it's involvement in the war in Iraq (along with the recent presence of Danish troops in Iraq), is simply repugnant beyond what words can possibly express.

It took a study showing the children of those refugees who have made it into the country, only to become ensnared in the prison-like holding tank Sandholm (where they are left to languish while their claims lay in limbo often for years at a time), have an unfortunate tendency to develop mental problems during the tediously long asylum process, to finally high-voltage electric cattle prod the government into allowing these families to relocate away from this squalid place while their claims are decided. Of course, they still won't be permitted to work, lest they actually start contributing measurably to society.

And who really wants to talk about welfare (as the Social Demoncrats, the primary opposition party seem to want to), when everything else is rolling along in such a swell manner, pesky refugees and distinctly zenophobic immigration policies aside?

So we probably haven't seen the back of Anders Fogh Rasmussen just yet. But let's see what happens. You've been warned.

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