Helle Thorning-Schmidt: Denmark’s First Female Prime Minister

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Fabian Bimmer / Reuters

Helle Thorning-Schmidt led her left-leaning alliance to victory during Denmark’s Sep. 15 election, paving the way for her to become the country’s first female prime minister.

The mother of two has pledged to raise taxes on the wealthy, end conservative austerity measures, and fire up the economy through increased public spending. But it’s not all change. In a nation that prizes consensus, it’s unlikely Thorning-Schmidt will stray too far from the stringent anti-immigrant policies laid down by her predecessors, who were in alliance with the anti-Islam Danish People’s Party. The victory of her left-leaning bloc is the first in Scandinavia since right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik carried out his devastating massacre in Norway in July.

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The campaign was fraught with slurs and allegations against her and her British husband, Stephen Kinnock. Tabloids, which have for years dismissed the 44-year old as “Gucci Helle” because of her expensive tastes, suggested that Kinnock is gay. And a number of newspapers ran allegations that the couple had evaded paying Danish taxes (Kinnock lives in Switzerland, where he is a director of the World Economic Forum).

The newly elected leader doesn’t think that her gender will make much of a difference in famously egalitarian Denmark, “except maybe for young girls who can start saying ‘hmm, this is a post I can aspire to.’”

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William Lee Adams is a staff writer at the London bureau of TIME. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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