Politicians ratchet up rhetoric in second debate

Acrid attacks as party leaders position themselves for 2011 election Opposition leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Pia Kjærsgaard, head of the right wing Danish People’s Party, locked horns in their second head-to-head debate in less than a week last night. About...

Opposition leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Pia Kjærsgaard, head of the right wing Danish People’s Party, locked horns in their second head-to-head debate in less than a week last night.

About 600 people were on hand in Sønderborg, Jutland, as the two engaged in what at times were bitter attacks over the economy and the state of the welfare system.

Thorning-Schmidt kept up her strategy of painting Kjærsgaard and her party as “the nation’s greatest threat to the welfare system”, a term she used during the first debate on Friday.

In one particularly acrid exchange, Thorning-Schmidt, a Social Democrat, accused the Danish People’s Party of what amounted to selling out its constituency by supporting the government’s bank bailout plan.

“When unemployment become a problem for real people, with real layoffs, you chose to kick them when they were down,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

Kjærsgaard, however, defended their support for the bailout, arguing that the economy would have plunged even further into recession without it.

Immigration policy again proved a hot issue, with particular focus on the controversial new points system for immigrants seeking to join a relative living in Denmark.

The system awards points based on education level, which was Thorning-Schmidt called “education snobbery”.

“You're manipulating. You're manipulating,” retorted Kjærsgaard. “When you lie enough, you end up believing your own lies.”

The two party leaders held their first debate on Thursday in Nyborg in what is seen as a warm-up for campaigning for the looming general election.

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen must call an election before November 2011. The most recent predictions suggest it will be held this spring.

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