Political Parties

Denmark has a multi-party system with a relatively large number of parties in the Danish Parliament. The political parties play a central role in Danish democracy as they represent people’s different opinions regarding the way in which society should be organized.

Større

 

No mention of political parties in the Constitutional Act of Denmark

The Constitutional Act, which sets out the fundamental principles for the political system in Denmark, does not mention political parties, because when the Act was introduced in 1849, no such parties had been formed. Yet today, they play a major role in political life. As in many other countries, the principles governing politics in Denmark go far beyond the basic rules written down in the constitution, and tradition, practical considerations and social developments in general contribute greatly to the conditions for political life.

In principle, anybody can join a political party, but all members must comply with the party’s regulations and agree to the party programme. It is not possible to be a member of more than one party at a time. About 180,000 Danes are members of a political party at present.

Almost all parties also have youth organisations, where aspiring politicians can learn political skills, help the parent party or debate with more established politicians. Many top politicians began their careers in a political youth organisation.

With the adoption of the Constitutional Act in 1849, Denmark had its first democratic parliament, the Rigsdag, comprising the Folketing, the Lower Chamber, and the Landsting, the Upper Chamber. No political parties had been formed at the time, because there was no tradition for people to voice their opinions through a political party. Instead, voters would elect a candidate to represent them because of this person’s political views and personal characteristics. Not everybody could become a member of the Rigsdag. Women, for example, were excluded as was also about one fourth of the male population over 30 years of age, primarily servants and recipients of so-called 'poor relief'. 

The formation of the first political parties 

After some time, Members of the Rigsdag sharing the same opinions began to establish clubs where they met to discuss current issues. To begin with, these clubs were only loosely organised, but gradually they took on a more structured form and became the basis for the first political parties established around 1870. The Conservative Party (formerly the Right) and the Liberal Party (formerly the United Left) both grew out of such clubs in the Rigsdag, i.e. they started out as associations of Members who had already been elected. To begin with, the representation in the Rigsdag was the only function of the two parties, but later on local branches in the form of constituency organisations were established. 
 
Unlike the Right and the United Left, the Social Democratic Party was established outside the Rigsdag in 1871. From its inception, the party began to build up a powerful organisation with the principle aim of recruiting as many members as possible. It was not until the 1880s that the party managed to win a few seats in the Parliament. 
 
Due to the social changes at the end of the 19th century, the divisions in society became more pronounced. Common to the three parties described above was that each of them represented a certain group or class in society: the Right represented landed proprietors and civil servants, the United Left represented farmers, and the Social Democrats represented workers. The United Left and the Social Democrats were also part of broader movements: the cooperative movement and the labour movement respectively. These parties and movements came to play a central role in the reorganisation of the Danish society beginning around 1920.

New parties arise 

Some of the new parties formed in the 20th century grew out of rifts in the parties in the Parliament. In 1905, the Social Liberal Party broke away from the Liberal Party. In 1959, the Socialist People's Party was established after a rift in the Communist Party of Denmark. In 1967, the Left Wing Socialists was formed as a splinter group of the Socialist People's Party and, in 1995, the Progress Party split in two. The breakaway group became the Danish People's Party. 
 
New Alliance was established in 2007 by Members of the Danish Parliament and Members of the European Parliament from the Social Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. The name of the party was changed to Liberal Alliance on 28 August 2008. 
 
Other parties have been formed by groups of people sharing the same overall opinions or in protest against specific issues. Such groups are established outside the Parliament, but may subsequently attempt to win seats in Parliament. 
 
The Red-Green Alliance originally started out as an electoral alliance outside the Parliament between the Socialist Workers' Party, the Left Wing Socialists and the Communist Party of Denmark. Today it has developed into a members' organisation proper independent of the parties originally forming the alliance. 
 
The Christian Democrats (formerly the Christian People's Party) was formed as a reaction to specific political issues. The laws allowing the sale of pornographic pictures and giving freer access to abortion were the key trigger for the formation of the party, but subsequently the party has developed policies in most areas of society. 
 

After a general election, the newly-elected Members of Parliament (MPs) gather in parliamentary party groups. They are typically MPs elected for the same party, but others (e.g. a Member from the Faroe Islands or Greenland or an independent Member) can also become a Member of a parliamentary group.

Udvalgsmøde. Fotograf: Anders Hviid

Every parliamentary group receives a grant known as a group grant, which is used to pay the group's payroll costs to Members' secretaries, economists and press officers, etc.

Grants comprise a basic amount per parliamentary group, as well as an amount per seat per Member of the group. The basic amount is the same for all parliamentary groups that have four or more members.

Parliamentary groups with less than four members receive a quarter of the basic amount per member.

The grant per seat is the same for all ordinary members. Those members who are also Ministers and the Speaker of the Danish Parliament receive one-third of the grant per seat.

MPs who are not members of parliamentary groups (independent Members) are also entitled to a grant, which they must apply to Parliament's Presidium for, but this grant cannot exceed the grant per seat.

Grant rates in 2015

DKK per month

Basic grant for parliamentary party groups with four or more seats

290,784

Basic grant per seat for parliamentary party groups with three or fewer seats

72,696

Grant per seat per MP

45,594

Grant per seat per MP who is also a minister or is theSpeaker of the Danish Parliament

15,198