Danish Diaries – The Left and the Right

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Danish Diaries – The Left and the Right

I have been explaining my experiences in Denmark through various avenues, and something that I am interested in learning when I go to a new place is the working of that location. It is a common mistake a lot of us make in thinking that learning about the local economy and its politics.

The royal family of Denmark

Additionally, as an exchange student, it easily becomes an interesting conversation starter with the knowledge of the policy of a place is an important thing to know. A discussion can lead to a lot of questions on to Indian politics, and this has kept me on my toes on that subject. Danes, in general, have a sound understanding of their politics with regular debates on burning issues put across on television channels. Newspapers cover in-depth analysis of matters that are relevant and related to the field of politics.

The political system of Denmark is that of a multi-party structure, where several parties can be represented in Parliament at any one time. Danish governments are often characterised by minority administrations, aided with the help of one or more supporting parties. This means that Danish politics is based on consensus politics. Since 1909, no single party has had the majority in Parliament. Since 28 November 2016, the Government has consisted of the Liberal Party (Venstre), Liberal Alliance and the Conservative Party (Det Konservative Folkeparti). Lars Løkke Rasmussen from the Liberal Party is the Prime Minister.

The current Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen  

Even though it is the smallest and southernmost among the Nordic countries, it is a sovereign state. Denmark consists of Denmark proper, and the Faroe Islands and Greenland – two independent countries located in the North Atlantic Ocean, and which are constituents of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional Monarchy, with the Queen being Head of State. With the signing of its Constitution in 1849, absolute Monarchy was terminated, and a constitutional Monarchy established.

The Folketing (Danish: Folketinget which means the people’s thing), also known as the Danish Parliament in English, is the unicameral national parliament (legislature) of the Kingdom of Denmark. Established in 1849, until 1953 the Folketing was the lower house of a bicameral parliament, called the Rigsdag; the upper house was the Landsting. It meets in Christiansborg Palace, on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen. The Folketing passes all laws, approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government. It is also responsible for adopting the state’s budgets and supporting the state’s accounts. As set out in the Danish Constitution, the Folketing shares power with the reigning monarch. In practice, however, the king or queen’s role is limited to signing laws passed by the legislature; this must be done within 30 days of adoption.

Free choice ensuring transparency

The Folketing consists of 179 representatives; 175 from Denmark, two from Greenland and a further two from the Faroe Islands. General elections must be held every four years, but it is within the powers of the Prime Minister to ask the monarch to call for an election before the term has elapsed. On a vote of no confidence, the Folketing may force a single Minister or the entire government to resign. Members are democratically elected by proportional representation: 135 by the D’Hondt method and 40 by the Sainte-Laguë method. The Danish political system has traditionally generated coalitions. Most post-war governments have been minority coalitions ruling with the support of non-government parties. On many issues, the political parties tend to opt for co-operation, and the Danish state welfare model receives broad parliamentary support. This ensures a focus on public-sector efficiency and devolved responsibilities of local government on regional and municipal levels. The degree of transparency and accountability is reflected in the public’s high level of satisfaction with the political institutions, while Denmark is also regularly considered one of the least corrupt countries in the world by international organisations.

 Denmark’s geographical location in Europe 

Margrethe II (born 16 April 1940) has ruled as Queen Regnant and head of state since 14 January 1972. Following the Danish Constitution, the Danish monarch, as head of state, is the general source of all executive and legislative power. The Danish Prime Minister is head of government. He and his cabinet are appointed by the Monarch and may be dismissed by the same Monarch. The Executive’s decisions are monitored by the Folketing, which is the Kingdom’s parliamentary system. A vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister from the Folketing will prompt the resigning of the entire cabinet. In addition to leading the Cabinet, the Prime Minister is in charge of overseas territories, and constitutional affairs. Cabinet Ministers are heads of government departments/Ministries, and there are no assistant ministers. The civil service is charged with implementing the cabinet minister’s decisions, with the head of the public service in each department being the Permanent Secretary.

The Danish Parliament

Given the multiparty system, Denmark has nine parties represented in parliament. The four oldest and in history most influential parties are the Conservative People’s Party, the Social Democrats, Venstre (Left, a conservative-liberal party) and the Danish Social Liberal Party. However, demographics have been in favour of younger parties (such as the nationalist far-right Danish People’s Party and the far-left Red-Green Alliance), which has led to a constant process of policy development and continuous renewal amongst the political parties. No two sides have the same organisation. It is however common for a party to have: an annual convention which approves manifestos and elects party chairpersons; a board of leaders; an assembly of representatives; and some local branches of their organisation. In most cases, the party members in parliament form their group with autonomy to develop and promote party politics in parliament and between elections.

 A satirical cartoon of the current Prime Minister 

The coverage of the news as I mentioned is not only constant but done in different ways. It is not unusual to see satirical cartoons and article pieces on the politics. There is hardly any censoring of the material as Danes believe in speaking your mind out for the betterment of the society. The left wing has been in power on and off for a long time, and its ideas are in practice in daily life. The concept of social welfare and equality play well with their ideals. Currently, Lars Løkke Rasmussen. He leads a government consisting of Venstre with parliamentary support from the Danish People’s Party, Liberal Alliance and the Conservative People’s Party.

My take away is always to make an effort to learn and understand politics. It does not matter if it is complicated, knowing who is what in the parliament, what agenda they have set and keeping track of the current government’s work should become an important aspect of an informed decision. So, till then vises naeste gang!

About the Author:

Athmika Ramachandra is currently continuing her post-graduation studies at Aarhus University, Denmark under student exchange programme of Manipal University Media and Communication Department. Athmika is Gold Medallist in BA from Mangalore University, enjoys photography, listening to music, reading novels and trying out new food. A bitten travel bug Athmika cherishes writing and poetry and she is the granddaughter of Late Padyana Gopalakishna (Pa.Go), Veteran Journalist & Kannada Columnist of yesteryears from Mangalore.

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