Brief overview of the Danish party system
Denmark has a multi-party system and due to the electoral law, no single party has gained absolute majority in the parliament since 1909. Until the 1970’s the Danish party system was dominated by four major parties, the center-left Social Democrats, the right-wing Liberal Party (Venstre), the Conservative Party and the centrist Social-Liberal Party. However, linked to the welfare state tradition of Denmark (which more or less characterized all Scandinavian countries) the most powerful of the above parties have historically been the Social Democrats, who won the highest vote share in all elections for almost 80 years, from 1924 until 2001. A hallmark in Danish political history is the general election of 1973, when the traditional parties lost strength and two new parties entered the political spectrum, the Progress Party and the Center Democrats.
In recent years, Social Democrats were part of the government from 1993 until 2001 and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen was the Prime Minister. In 2001 Venstre became the dominant party for the first time and in general elections of 2007 Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen continued a third term in a coalition government consisted of Venstre and Conservative People’s Party and supported by Danish People’s Party. In general elections of 2011, although Venstre was the first party in the parliament, a center-left coalition government was eventually formed by Social Democrats, Socialist People’s Party and Social-Liberal Party.
Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne)
Leader: Helle-Thorning Schmidt
Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne) were founded in 1871 by Louis Pio and are historically the largest Danish political party. It is a social-democratic party rooted among urban industrial workers. Traditionally it had strong bonds with labor units but the last decades these bonds have weakened significantly. Social Democrats emphasize on maintaining the core elements of welfare state which was supported through the years under the bulletin of “Liberty, Equality and Freedom”. Following the Scandinavian social-democratic model, the party advocates the finance of public services, as public healthcare system, education and public infrastructure. Social Democrats led most Danish governments from the 30’s to the early 1980’s, and regained power in 1993. They introduced the policy of “flexicurity”, which consisted of the deregulation of the job market without abolishing social benefits. In 2003 they stepped in opposition and in the general election of 2011 the party formed a center-left coalition government with Socialist People’s Party and Social Liberal Party. Its leader Helle-Thorning Schmidt became Prime Minister. Social Democrats are part of the Socialist International and a member of Party of European Socialists.
Leader: Lars Løkke Rasmussen
Venstre, Liberal Party was founded in 1870 and was initially launched under the name “The United Left”. The party was traditionally advocating farmers’ interests and was part of the peasant movement against aristocracy. A total reform of the party took place in 1910 and after the 1960’s Venstre transformed into a classic liberal party. It is one of the dominant parties in Danish politics and a major participant in last coalition governments while its leaders undertook premiership. In general elections of 2001 for the first time in Danish politics, right-wing parties had an outright majority in the parliament and Venstre gain 31.2% of the electorate, which was considered as a significant victory. The party draws from the liberal tradition, emphasizing free market, less government interference and individual freedom. Venstre is member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party.
Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti – DF)
Leader: Kristian Thulesen Duhl
Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti – DF) was founded in 1995 when Pia Kjærsgaard and three other members left the right-wing Progress Party (Fremskridtspartiet). Pia Kjærsgaard was the party’s leader for seven years. DF is placed in the far right, emphasizing on tradition and heritage of Danish culture, national security and independence. It has strong anti-immigrant and Islamophobic characteristics while advocating the danger of national decadence. The party naturally also stands against European Union and integration. In general elections of 2001 DF became the third party in the parliament, won 12% of the vote and supported the parliamentary right-wing coalition along with Venstre and Conservative People’s Party. In election of 2005 DF increased again its strength and won 13.8% of the electorate. In general elections of 2011 the party had its first minor decline, with 12.3%.
The Danish Social Liberal Party (Det Radikale Venstre)
Leader: Margrethe Vestager
The Danish Social Liberal Party (Det Radikale Venstre) was founded in 1905 and the majority of its founders were former members of Liberal Party, Venstre. It is placed in the centre of the political spectrum and the strongholds of the party were originally intellectuals, small agrarians and craftsmen. Historically the party has collaborated with left-wing and right-wing parties of the parliament. After six years in opposition, in general elections of 2011 Social Liberal Party had an electoral raise and became part of the coalition government with Social Democrats and Socialist People’s Party. The party is member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) party.
The Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti – SF)
Leader: Annette Vilhelmsen
The Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti – SF) was founded in 1959 by Aksel Larsen and other former members of the Danish Communist Party. During the 60’s the party participated in social movements and is inspired by democratic socialism and green politics. It emphasizes the support of human rights, democracy and environmental issues. In general elections of 2007 SF performed well and gained 13% of the vote. In elections of 2011 its percentages declined to 9.2% and the party supported the government coalition with Social Democrats and Social Liberal Party.
Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne)
Leader: Collective leadership (political spokesperson Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen)
Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne) was founded in 1989 as a coalition of left-wing parties, the Left Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Denmark and the Socialist Workers Party. Red-Green Alliance is placed in the leftmost place inside the Danish parliament. The party advocates the principals of democratic socialism, solidarity and ecology and opposes privatization, neoliberal policies and globalization. In the 2011 general elections the party tripled its representation in the parliament and gained 6.7% of the electorate, the highest in its history.
Leader: Anders Samuelsen
Liberal Alliance was founded in 2007 by two former members of the Social Liberal Party and one former member of Conservative People’s Party. It is the youngest party in parliament. In 2008 the party reestablished itself under Samuelsen’s leadership and is placed in the center-right. It supports economical liberalism, advocating tax reduction and state reforms. In general election of 2007 the party won 2.8% of the electorate and in elections of 2011 it raised its vote share to 5%.
Conservative People’s Party (Konservative Folkeparti)
Leader: Lars Barfoed
Conservative People’s Party (Konservative Folkeparti) was founded in 1915 and has its heirs in the Right Party (Højre). It originates from the right-wing and liberal tradition of Denmark politics. The party has participated in coalition governments and during 2001-2011 it supported the alliance led by the Venstre, Liberal Party. Conservative People’s Party emphasizes on Danish culture and tradition and stands for free market. In general election of 2011, the party faced a strong defeat since it lost ten seats in the parliament and half of its percentage. It is a member of the European People’s Party.
Sources: Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, Political Data Yearbook, Wikipedia.org, http://welections.wordpress.com/category/denmark/