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.