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Holger Kirkholm Nielsen, known as Holger K. Nielsen for short, (born 23 April 1950 in Ribe) is a Danish politician, member of the Danish Folketinget parliament for the Socialist People's Party. He was leader of the Socialist People's Party from 1991 to 2005. He has been the Minister for Taxation of Denmark since 16 October 2012.
He was elected for the Folketing in 1987. He became leader of the Socialist People's Party in 1991 at a time when the party was going through some major ideological soul-searching following the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe. The opposing candidate for the party leadership had been Sten Gade, a self-styled moderniser intent on reforming the party in ways which the majority found too radical. Holger K. Nielsen was considered a 'safer' choice in the eyes of the party's old guard, and thus assumed the leadership allied to the more leftist elements in his party.
Among the policies that had to be addressed was the party's approach to European integration. Having opposed membership of the EC (EU) in 1972, and then campaigned against ratification of the Single European Act in 1986, the party had by the late 1980s grudgingly reconciled itself to Danish membership, dropping the demand for withdrawal in 1990. However when the Maastricht Treaty came up for approval by referendum in 1992 the party remained true to its roots and recommended a 'NO' vote. Holger K. Nielsen became one of the leaders in this campaign, and was later judged to have swung far more than his own socialist voters towards the NO-side, which to great surprise emerged victorious by a wafer-thin margin. The following year, however, he reversed that position, recommending acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty, supplemented with the four Danish opt-outs. This decision came close to tearing the party apart, with some 60% of its voters remaining opposed, but this time the yes-side prevailed.
During the years of the Poul Nyrup Rasmussen governments (1993–2001), Holger K. Nielsen managed to take the Socialist People's Party closer to the mainstream of Danish politics, positioning the party as a slightly more leftist alternative to the ruling Social Democrats. During this time the party entered into several major compromises with the government in many policy areas, including several state finance bills. However close the socialists moved to the government, though, they never quite became acceptable as coalition partners, much to the chagrin of Holger K. Nielsen. A real popular breakthrough also never materialised, despite the leader's high media profile. The party lost seats in both the 1994 and 2001 elections, only managing to hold on in the 1998 election.
Whatever the party's success in shoring up the centre-left governments of the 1990s, it is for his handling of the European issue that Holger K. Nielsen will be remembered. The party remained in the sceptic camp during the 1998 referendum campaign for the Amsterdam Treaty, a move which prompted several prominent pro-Europeans, such as Sten Gade and Christine Antorini, to leave politics. Again in 2000, when the issue was Denmark entering the Economic and Monetary Union, the Socialists were in the forefront of the successful NO-campaign, with Holger K. Nielsen taking a prominent lead. However later that same year, flush with victory and riding high in the opinion polls, Holger K. Nielsen performed one of the more spectacular U-turns in modern Danish political history, when he made his party endorse the Nice Treaty, thus making a referendum avoidable. This was the opening shot in a campaign to turn the formerly EU-sceptic party into pro-Europeans, a process that culminated in late 2004, with the party's rank-and-file following Holger K. Nielsen's advice, and endorsing a pro-ratification stance towards the EU's Draft Constitution.
Following the election in 2001 of a liberal-conservative coalition, the Socialist People's Party found themselves pushed to the margins of Danish politics, rarely able to influence events. Their response was to move towards the left in most policy areas, a move which only separated them even more from the mainstream, and which seemed to have only limited appeal to the public. In foreign policy the party was also adrift, only being able to unite around a strident anti-Americanism.
Following yet another election defeat in 2005, Holger K. Nielsen resigned as party leader, leaving behind a party which, having moved away from the mainstream in such vital areas as asylum/immigration/integration and management of the economy, and having abandoned its distinctive policy of EU-scepticism, was possibly in even harder search for a raison d'etre than the one he took over.
When Annette Vilhelmsen became new leader of the party in October 2012, Nielsen who had been a strong supporter of Vilhelmsen's candidacy was named new Minister of Taxation in the Cabinet of Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Danish Socialist People's Party
1991 – 2005
Thor Möger Pedersen
|Minister for Taxation of Denmark