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Denmark

Denmark

5. Participation

5.1 General context

On this page
  1. Main concepts
  2. Institutions of representative democracy

Main concepts

Denmark has no main concepts related to youth participation.

 

Institutions of representative democracy

Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the Constitutional Act limits the power of the monarch. The Constitutional Act (grundloven, Lov nr 169 af 05/06/1953) is the most important piece of legislation in Denmark, and all other laws must comply with it.

Denmark has three levels of government:

  1. The national level (the monarch, the parliament (legislative power), the government (executive power) and the courts (judicial power)
  2. Regional level
  3. Municipal level

 

The reigning monarch

Queen Margrethe II has no political power. She does not interfere in political life or express political opinions. However, 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 in parliament and formally appointing the prime minister.

 

Parliament

The Danish parliament is called Folketinget. It is the legislative assembly in Denmark and passes all the acts that apply in Denmark. The Danish parliament is also responsible for adopting the state’s budget, approving the state’s accounts, exercising control of the government and taking part in international cooperation.

The parliament has 179 members from 92 constituencies. Two members are elected in Greenland and two on the Faroe Islands.

 

The Presidium of the Danish Parliament

The presidium (Folketingets Præsidium) is the supreme authority of the Danish parliament. It is made up of a speaker and up to four deputy speakers, who are elected by the parliament at the beginning of the parliamentary year or after a general election. The chief task of the presidium is to make sure that the work of the Danish parliament is organised and performed in a satisfactory manner. This includes ensuring that parliamentary regulations are complied with, both when it comes to political work in committees and the chamber and where the administrative work of the parliament is concerned.

 

Parliamentary committees

The chamber of the Danish parliament is where members of parliament (MPs) debate political issues and vote on bills. The committees are where these decisions are prepared. It is also in the chamber that bills are passed and become law. However, the Danish Parliament’s decisions are prepared by parliamentary committees. Each committee has its own political sphere of work, called a remit. A committee exercises parliamentary scrutiny and handles bills and motions or proposals within its remit.

Currently, the Danish parliament has 32 committees:

As a rule, the parties are represented in the committees in proportion to their size in parliament.

 

Government

The government exercises executive power and governs the country in accordance with the laws enacted by the parliament. The Danish government normally comprises about 20 ministers and is headed by the prime minister.

The prime minister determines the composition of the government with respect to the number of ministers and their remits. Each minister has a specific area of responsibility: the minister for the environment is responsible for environmental issues, the minister for taxation is responsible for matters involving taxation, and so on. Ministerial responsibilities are relatively fixed, but sometimes ministries are combined or remits are changed. The prime minister can also appoint new ministers for policy areas that the government considers particularly important.

The Danish system of government is known as negative parliamentarianism, which means that the government does not need to have a majority in the parliament – but it must not have a majority against it. If there is a majority against it, the government must resign. The system of negative parliamentarianism means that a minority government can govern Denmark. In fact, most Danish governments have been minority governments, where the government parties have held less than 90 of the 179 seats in the parliament.

In the majority of cases, ministers are members of parliament, but this is not a requirement. If a minister is appointed who is not an MP, he or she is may of course speak in the chamber during debates but is not entitled to vote.

Aside from the control carried out by the Danish parliament, Danish ministries and ministers are subject to supervision by the National Audit office, the ombudsman and the supreme court.

The supreme court is authorised to rule on whether the decisions of the executive power of government (the government) are in accordance with the law.

The court of impeachment (rigsret) is authorised to rule on whether a minister has failed in his/her responsibilities or if he/she is suspected of illegal office administration. Only the parliament or the government can demand a trial in the court of impeachment, and it has only happened six times since 1849.

 

The National Audit Office

The National Audit Office (Rigsrevisionen) audits public spending on behalf of the Danish parliament and seeks to strengthen the accountability of public administration to the benefit of the citizens. The National Audit Office audits the government accounts and financial statements of publicly funded enterprises, as well as verifying the legality and effective use of public funds.

 

The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman

The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman is elected by the parliament. The ombudsman investigates complaints about public administration. The jurisdiction of the ombudsman extends to all parts of public administration, except for the courts of justice. If any deficiencies in existing laws or administrative regulations come to the attention of the ombudsman in particular cases, he or she must notify the Danish parliament and the responsible minister.

 

Regional level

Since 2007, Denmark is divided in five regions.

The regions have three main tasks:

  • Healthcare
  • Regional development (business, education, culture, environment, public transport)
  • Social services and special education

Each region has two political bodies:

The council is the top-level regional authority. The regional council has 41 members elected by the citizens in the region. A chairman and two vice chairmen are elected among the 41 council members. The chairman is elected with a simple majority vote among the present members. The regional council can set up committees, but these committees do not have decision-making competences.

The executive committee manages tasks relating to finances, budget and accounts. Furthermore, the executive committee’s opinion must be obtained in each case decided by the regional council.

The regional council members are elected for four years.

 

The municipal level

Since 2007, Denmark has been divided in 98 municipalities.

The municipalities are responsible for the close-to-home welfare, such as public schools, unemployment services, care for the elderly, child care, social services, integration, etc.

The municipalities are governed by a municipal council, which is the top-level municipal authority. The chair of the municipal council is the mayor. The mayor is elected in the council’s constituent meeting but does not have a greater say than the other members. The mayor is elected by simple majority among the members present.

The municipal council must set up a finance committee, and often the council delegates tasks to 4-6 permanent committees (e.g. the technical and environmental committee, children and youth committee, culture and leisure committee and employment committee).

 

Main legal principles concerning elections

According to the Constitutional Act, there must be a general election at least once every four years. The prime minister is responsible for calling a general election before the electoral period expires, i.e. within four years, but an election may also be called earlier at the prime minister’s discretion.

 

Voting in Denmark is voluntary

In Denmark, it is voluntary to vote and the voting is cast either by secret ballot on election day or by post before election day.

Voters will receive a polling card by post well in advance of election day. The polling card will tell them when and where to vote.

 

Secret ballots

Voters hand in their polling cards at the polling station and receive a long ballot paper listing the names of the parties and the candidates running for election. The ballot is secret and votes are cast in polling booths so that nobody can see who people vote for.

Voters can put a cross either beside the name of a person or a party.

An alternative to voting in person is postal voting. A postal vote must be cast prior to election day, either at the municipal citizen service centre or at other appointed public institutions. It is also possible to vote from hospital if a voter is hospitalised, from prisons, nursing homes or from one’s home if a voter is sick or physically unable to leave the home. Prior to voting from home, the voter must have applied to the municipality. Postal votes from abroad must be cast 3 months prior to election day.

 

Election threshold

Parties that win very few votes will not be represented in the parliament. There is a lower limit, an election threshold, of 2% to the number of votes a party must win to be elected to the parliament. However, if the party has won a constituency seat, the party will enter the parliament nonetheless. In practice, this is extremely rare.

Due to the low election threshold, Denmark has a multi-party system with a relatively large number of parties in the Danish parliament.

At present, the following political parties are represented in the Danish Parliament.