Danish PM calls snap election for Nov 13

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COPENHAGEN, Oct 24 (Reuters) Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen today called a general election for November. 13, launching a long-anticipated campaign after solid support in polls, a healthy economy and record-low unemployment.

Rasmussen did not have to call a vote before early 2009. He and his Liberal-Conservative coalition swept to power in 2001 on the back of promises to crack down on asylum-seekers and cut taxes.

Addressing the Danish Parliament, Rasmussen said he was calling an election to win a strong mandate for his plans to improve public services, especially health care.

''Quality reform should be agreed in Parliament with the widest possible majority and within a responsible economic framework,'' he said.

Facing the voters early would give Rasmussen a chance to nail down a new mandate before his government enters wage negotiations with public employees' unions in December. They are expected to cite low unemployment as they seek hefty pay raises.

The latest opinion polls put Rasmussen's Liberal-Conservative coalition and their ally, the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party (DPP), about 8 per centage points ahead of the opposition.

A strong showing might also allow the coalition to govern without the DPP's support, possibly with backing from a new centre party, the New Alliance.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, said in a television interview that she believed she could defeat Rasmussen and would run on a platform focusing on welfare and opposing tax cuts.

REUTERS SG RK1748

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