Denmark - Political background

Denmark has been a constitutional monarchy since 1849. The present Constitution dates from 1953 and establishes a unicameral Parliament, the Folketing. Executive power is vested in the monarch, currently Queen Margrethe II, who appoints the prime minister and his cabinet. In practice, the queen's role is purely ceremonial, as she must consult the parties in the Folketing in making her choice, and the Parliament can dismiss any minister or government by a majority vote of no confidence. Likewise, the prime minister can dissolve Parliament and call new elections at any point during the four-year electoral term.

The Folketing is composed of 179 seats, most of which are elected by a system of proportional representation (parties gaining at least 2% of the vote receive seats in proportion to their share of the popular vote.) This has produced a multiparty system, with 10 parties currently represented in the diet. Since the establishment of parliamentary democracy in 1901, no single party has held a majority; thus, governments have been based on coalitions of parties. Denmark has mainly been governed by a series of minority governments that had to bargain continuously in order to get a majority of the Folketing to support individual legislative matters. The Social Democrats seek to nationalize monopolies and redistribute income through tax policy; the Liberal Party is just left of center, but has often supported nonsocialist coalitions on domestic issues; other parties are the Center Democratic Party, Danish People's Party (far-right), Conservative Party, Social Liberal Party (sometimes called the Radical Left), Socialist People's Party, Christian People's Party, and the Red-Green Unity List (comprised of the Left Socialist Party, Communist Party of Denmark, and Socialist Workers' Party).

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