The Constitutional Act of Denmark

Denmark is a democracy and a monarchy at the same time. But it is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the power of the monarch is limited by the Constitutional Act.

Større


The reigning monarch, Queen Margrethe II, has no political power. She does not interfere in political life or express political opinions. Yet, she does perform certain official functions related to political life, such as attending the opening of the Danish Parliament, signing laws that have been passed, and formally appointing the Prime Minister. 

The Constitutional Act is the most important piece of legislation in Denmark, and all other laws must comply with it.

The framework for Danish democracy is laid down in the Constitutional Act of Denmark, with a set of fundamental principles and rules for society. For instance, the Constitutional Act establishes the rights and duties of individual citizens, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and compulsory military service.

Picture: The Danish constitutional act

The Constitutional Act is the most important piece of legislation in Denmark, and all other laws must comply with it.

The division of power 

As in many other democracies, the Danish Constitutional Act divides power into three independent branches in order to prevent the abuse of power. In Denmark, the Danish Parliament is the legislative power, enacting the laws of the country. The Government is the executive power, ensuring that laws are implemented. And the courts of law are the judicial power, pronouncing judgements in disputes between citizens and between the authorities and citizens.

Amendments to the Constitutional Act

The Constitutional Act of Denmark is one of the oldest constitutions in the world. It has only been amended a few times since it was enacted in 1849. This is partly because making an amendment is a rather complex procedure, requiring that both the Danish Parliament and the Danish people agree to it. However, another important reason is that the wording in the Constitutional Act is so general that it can still be applied today, despite major changes in society and political life over the past 160 years.

The contents of the Constitutional Act

In its present form, the Constitutional Act is from 5 June 1953, but the principal features of the Act go back to 1849. It originally contained 100 sections, which have now been reduced to 89 sections, grouped in eleven chapters.

From 1660 to 1848, Denmark was an absolute monarchy, a form of government that was the norm in many European countries at the time. In the 18th century, however, there was growing opposition to absolute monarchy in Europe. People demanded the right to decide how their countries should be governed, and monarchies were overthrown in several countries and replaced by republics.

Picture: The equestrian statue

As international developments began to accelerate, King Christian VIII decided that Denmark should also have a free constitution. Before he died in 1848, he therefore ordered his son, Frederik VII to promise the Danish people a new constitution that guaranteed them freedom and equality and prevented any one person from having unlimited power.

The Constitutional Assembly of the Realm

A new Government was given the authority to negotiate the constitution. Drawing on inspiration from the constitutions of other countries, e.g. Norway and Belgium, Danish politician D.G. Monrad wrote a draft constitution. The draft was presented to the Constitutional Assembly of the Realm, which comprised 152 members who had been elected to discuss the contents of the new constitution. After several months of work and discussions, the Constitutional Assembly of the Realm adopted a constitution which comprised 100 sections and became the Constitutional Act of Denmark. It was signed by King Frederik VII on 5 June 1849. This date is therefore known in Denmark as Constitution Day and is celebrated every year as a national holiday with political meetings held throughout the country.

 Picture: Constitutional act

Although it is said that with the adoption of the Constitutional Act in 1849, Denmark went from absolute monarchy to representative government, full democracy was not introduced until 1915 when women were enfranchised.