Danish Democracy


Danish democracy has evolved over the past 150 years. It has been influenced by events and political ideas in Denmark and abroad. The Danish People’s Government has much in common with the democracies of other countries, but it has also found its own special form. This chapter describes some of the most important characteristics of the way democracy works in today’s Denmark.

Danish democracy is based on a written constitution, the Kingdom of Denmark’s Constitution. The Constitution is primarily about national democracy, as it happens in the parliament. It contains rules about the parliament, the government and the courts. Among other things, the Constitution places certain limits on how the state may use its power.

There is a strong tradition of local democracy and autonomy in Denmark. Local self-government has deep roots in Danish history. It allows citizens to decide on many conditions in the community, for example in their municipality. Local democracy also characterizes many of today’s very close relationships. Among other things, the school board, the housing association and various committees at the workplace, as parents, residents or employees, influence things about one’s everyday life.

The Danish People’s Government is often called a pluralist democracy because it has so many different actors with each their roles, attitudes and interests. In Denmark, too, organizations and associations are therefore involved in political life. These may include organizations in the labor market, such as the LO’s and the Danish Employers’ Association, or business or environmental organizations.

Denmark is involved in many forms of international cooperation. Denmark is a member of the European Union (EU) and several other international organizations such as the UN and NATO. In this way, Denmark is influenced by many countries. But decisions taken in these international organizations also have a major impact on the Danish society. Denmark’s participation in international cooperation is described below in Chapter IV.



The frameworks for Danish democracy are laid down in the Danish Constitution, the Constitution of Denmark. It is a fairly short text that contains the basic rules and principles for the Danish government’s governance. The Constitution also protects the population from a number of fundamental rights and freedoms. The first democratic Danish constitution dates from 1849. With the constitution, the country became its first free constitution. Almost 200 years before, the country had been ruled by a monarchy. The adoption of the Constitution meant that the king’s power was shared with elected representatives. At the same time, a number of fundamental freedoms were secured.

The Constitution of 1849 is a foundation that has since gradually been built on. Many moves from the monarchy were thus continued in the first time after 1849. The king still elected the government ministers. Only with the change of system in 1901, the king had to accept that the Folketing decides who should have the government. This system is called for parliamentarianism. At first, only men over the age of 30 could vote. They should not have received poor assistance and may not be disqualified. They should also have permanent residence and be unmarried. In addition, women and servants also did not have the right to vote. This happened only in 1915. Since then, the electoral age of the Folketing has gradually been reduced from 30 years to 18 years.

The Constitution has been amended in 1866, 1915, 1920 and 1953. The current constitution is thus 1953. Much has changed in Denmark for the past 150 years. However, many of the principles and major parts of the text in the new constitution are completely backed by the 1849 Constitution. It is often emphasized that the Constitution is a solid but broad framework for the Danish people’s government. It is formulated so generally that political life has been able to change without the need to change the provisions of the Constitution.

The Constitution will help ensure political stability and protect citizens’ fundamental rights. It is therefore difficult to change the Constitution. The Constitution can only be changed if there is agreement between both the parliament and the population. Among other things, it ensures that a random political majority can not deprive a minority of its fundamental rights. The 1953 Constitution still carries the language back in 1849. Words are used that are not common today. Reading the constitution, one can also easily get the impression that the king (today the queen) plays a major political role today. However, the rules of the Constitution are interpreted in practice in such a way that the king’s power is taken over by the government. The Constitution’s language is one of the reasons why it has been regularly debated whether the Constitution should be changed to make it better for the present. It has also been discussed whether the Constitution should be better at protecting fundamental freedoms and human rights and changing the rules for Denmark’s participation in international cooperation. Yet, there has not been enough support in the parliament to begin this task.

What does the Constitution say?

The Constitution is the supreme law in Denmark. The parliament and government must therefore respect the constitution and do not legislate in violation of the Constitution. The Constitution sets out the most important rules for national democracy in Denmark.

The Constitution contains, among other things, rules on: – the supreme bodies of the state – the parliament, the government and the courts – and the relationship between them – election of members to the parliament – adoption of laws – the Danish state’s relations with the outside world – the Danish people church – local autonomy

The Constitution also protects and protects more fundamental freedoms and human rights. These include the right to express their views freely (freedom of speech), the right to meet with others (assembly freedom) and the right to form associations. The Constitution also protects personal freedom, freedom of religion, property rights and privacy.

Freedom rights thus protect individual citizens and minorities against the majority abusing their power. Denmark has a representative democracy. That is, the population elects representatives to the parliament, who then makes decisions on behalf of the people. The elected representatives are on election day to account for voters. It is the voters who decide whether the party or individual politician should be re-elected. People’s government in Denmark is, in particular, an indirect democracy. However, there are also referendums. Here the population can directly decide on a concrete political question.

Denmark has a parliamentary democracy. This means that a government can not be formed or remain in power if it has a majority in the Folketing against it. As the electorate decides how the Folketing is to be composed, the voters also decide in the sense of who needs the government. In 1953, this parliamentary principle was incorporated into the actual constitutional text.

The power of the state is threefold in a legislative power, an executive power and a judicial power. This division of power was introduced with the Constitution in 1849, which abrogated the king’s sovereign power. The division of powers means that the government and the parliament in common legislate (the legislative power). It is the government that – through the ministries – administers the laws in practice and leads them into practice (executive power). The third power is the courts (the judicial power). They resolve conflicts between citizens and between citizens and the state. It is also the courts who judge in criminal proceedings.

It is the basic idea that the three powers must control and limit each other’s power. In other words, the division of power must ensure that power in society is not centralized or abused. The sharing protects the citizens against arbitrary interference. This triple power exists in different versions in many democratic countries. Denmark’s head of state is a monarch. That is, a king or – like now – a queen. The monarch’s position is inherited and does not confer any political power. The Queen and the Royal House’s other members especially have a number of ceremonial tasks.

For example, they represent the official Denmark against foreign heads of state. Political power is exercised solely by government and parliament. This is also true in monarchies like Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom. Denmark, therefore, does not have a elected president such as France and the United States.

The Constitution also contains a rule that Danish citizenship can only be notified by law. This means that it is the government and the majority of the Folketing, which determines which foreigners can be granted Danish citizenship (citizenship).


The parliament is Denmark’s parliament and, together with the government, has the legislative power. The parliament is housed at Christiansborg in Copenhagen. The parliament has 179 members. The 175 are chosen in Denmark, 2 in the Faroe Islands, and 2 in Greenland. The parliamentarians almost always belong to a political party, and the political debate in the parliament usually takes place between the parties. This happens because the individual members convey their political views. The parliamentary meetings are public. Anyone can enter the audience seats in the parliament and listen to the debates. This openness is an important part of democracy. The parliamentary year begins the first Tuesday in October, where the parliament meets after the summer holidays. At the meeting, the Prime Minister gives an account of the state’s position. This is called the Prime Minister’s opening speech. The members of parliament then debate the content of the speech.

When the Folketing deals with a proposal for a new law, it takes place in the parliamentary hall at Christiansborg. Here the members of the political parties discuss all legislative proposals before they finally vote on them. Part of the legislative work also takes place in one of the many committees set up by the Parliament. Each year, the Folketing adopts 200-300 legislative proposals. One of these is the draft fiscal law, which is the state’s total budget for the next year. The parliament also decides who needs the government after a choice. According to the Constitution, it is formally the king or queen who appoints the government. But she must not appoint a government that has a majority in the parliament against it. It follows from the parliamentary principle. When a new government is to be formed, a so-called queen round will often be held.

In a queen’s round, two representatives of each party will turn to the queen to advise who they think should lead the negotiations on a new government or who they think should be new prime minister. On the basis of the advice received by the Queen, she can either appoint the person who has the most mandates behind her as the negotiator or point directly to a person who has the task of forming a new government with himself as prime minister. It is the government and the other public administration to implement the laws. One of the tasks of the Folketing is therefore to check that it is done in the way the Folketing has desired. For example, the check can be done by asking each member of parliament to ask a minister to answer an oral or written question. It is the most common way of controlling and every year several thousand questions are asked. One or more members of the Folketing may also raise an inquiry debate. This allows for a somewhat longer debate in the parliamentary hall. The parliamentary standing committee may also call a minister in consultation. The Minister must then meet in the committee and answer questions about concrete policy issues.

In these ways, the Folketing can continuously follow the government’s work and express its support or criticism of the government. For example, if a majority in the parliament is very dissatisfied with a minister, the Folketing may force this minister to resign by expressing his mistrust to the minister. In practice, however, a minister often chooses to resign himself if serious criticism is expressed. The majority of the Folketing can also express mistrust to the entire government. This happens because the parliament expresses its distrust to the prime minister. It is called a censorship vote. The government must then leave or the Prime Minister must print new elections. During inquiry debates, the opposition often makes proposals that criticize government policy. Rarely, however, proposals are adopted that are in the nature of a vote of confidence to the government. But the opportunity to do that plays a significant role in the power struggle between the government and the opposition. The parliamentary power over the government and ministers is the core of parliamentary rule. Thus, the government and the individual ministers are politically accountable to the parliament. If a minister is suspected of having done something illegal in the course of his work as a minister, the Folketing may decide to ask him or her for a special court, the court of justice. So far, only five court cases have been raised. The latest was raised in 1993 in connection with the so-called Tamil saga.

Parliamentary committee

A large part of the parliament’s work takes place in the standing (permanent) committees set up by the parliament. They are often called for the parliament’s workshops. In the parliamentary hall the big lines are drawn up, but it is in the committees that the policy is discussed in greater detail. The committees will process legislative proposals that are being presented. When a bill has been for first reading in the parliament, it is normally sent for further consideration in a committee. Here, the committee may allow citizens or associations to visit and present their views. When the committee has finished processing a bill, a report is written (report). It includes, among other things, the individual parties’ attitude to the bill. The standing committees also supervise the individual minister. As mentioned above, a minister can be called in consultation, and members of the committee can ask questions to the minister.

The individual standing committee typically deals with the political issues that belong to a particular ministry’s field of study. The parliament, for example, has a tax committee, a finance committee and a social and domestic committee because there is a tax, finance and social services ministry. The parliament also has other standing committees, such as a European committee that deals with matters relating to cooperation in the EU.

The number of committees varies. There are usually between 20 and 25 standing committees. The parliamentary committee consists only of members of the parliament. Typically, a committee has 17 members, including a chairman and a vice-chairman. The committees are composed so that each party has a number of committee members, which correspond roughly to the size of the party in the parliament. The idea is that a majority in a committee must reflect a majority in the parliament. According to the constitution, there must be a foreign policy committee. The Government is required to consult the Foreign Policy Committee before deciding on a greater foreign policy scope. It allows for a broad political debate and broad political support for major foreign policy decisions.

The government

The government has the executive power. The government drafts most of the bills. It manages and expands the legislation. And it is the government that largely sets out the big lines in Danish politics. In this way, the government usually has the decisive influence on the political agenda, that is, what current political issues are being debated.

The government is headed by the prime minister and consists of ministers from one or more parties. The parties in the Folketing, which together have the government, are called government parties. If the government parties together have the majority in the parliament, talk about a majority government. The government is called a minority government if it needs votes from other parties of the Folketing when it will create a majority behind its proposals. The non-governmental parties that support a minority government are called support parties. MPs and non-governmental parties, opposed to the government, are called for the opposition.

Since the Second World War, the vast majority of governments have been minorities governments. And since 1909 there is no single party that has had the majority in the parliament. Most governments have therefore had to cooperate widely with the Folketing’s other parties. It has created a tradition that the parties try to agree with each other on how to resolve political conflicts. Politicians and parties with very different attitudes and interests often have to talk to a compromise that can gather the necessary majority in the parliament. This tradition of broad consensus and cooperation has been called the cooperative government. It is an important feature of the political culture in Denmark.

The political leader who, after a parliamentary election, has the opportunity to form a government, is appointed as prime minister. The prime minister is the top political leader in the country. It is usually the leader of one of the largest political parties designated as prime minister, but it does not have to be. A leader of a smaller party may also become prime minister. Eg. was Hilmar Baunsgaard from the Radical Left Prime Minister from 1968 to 1971. His party was the smallest party in the government, which also consisted of the Left and the Conservative People’s Party. The crucial thing is that the person does not have a majority against himself in the parliament. The Prime Minister appoints the other ministers who receive management and the highest responsibility for each area. Thus, it is the individual minister that determines the government’s policy in its field of work. This is done in cooperation with the other government, including government meetings.

Every minister has a ministry with many officials who help the minister in his or her work. This applies, for example, when making a bill. The officials of a ministry are recruited on the basis of their professional qualifications. In Denmark there is no tradition of appointing officials based on which party they support. This is the case, for example, in the United States. The Danish officials are neutral, and they keep their jobs, even if a new government is coming.

The number of ministers is not fixed, but is decided by the prime minister. Normally there are between 15 and 25. A minister may lead several ministries at once. It does not require any formal qualifications to become minister. However, most people have great political experience. A minister does not have to be a member of the parliament. On a regular basis, for example, a significant leader from business or from an interest organization is appointed minister. For example, Connie Hedegaard, who worked as a journalist at the Danish Radio, was appointed Minister of Environment in 2004. She was first elected to the Folketing in 2005. In 2009, Lykke Friis was appointed Minister for Climate and Energy without being a member of the Parliament . She came from a position at the University of Copenhagen. And by 2015, Jørn Neergaard Larsen, who was Managing Director of the Danish Employers’ Association, was appointed Minister of Employment. If a minister is not a member of the parliament, he or she can not participate in parliamentary votes. However, a minister always has access to attend the parliamentary meetings.

The parliament is elected for a period not exceeding four years at a time. The Prime Minister may at any time print new elections during a parliamentary term. It is called for the right of dissolution and is the prime minister’s weapon against the parliament. Because if the selection is made, the voters must decide again who to select. New elections are often printed at a time when there is good support for government policy in the population. But it can also happen if a government in the parliament is voted down in an important political issue. It is then left to the voters to decide whether they want to support the government or opposition policy in the field concerned. Following a new election, the Prime Minister may continue if he or she still does not have a majority against the Folketing. There are no limits to how many electoral periods a prime minister must be in power.


The courts have the judicial power. This is stipulated in the Constitution. The Danish courts are independent. This means that the Folketing and the government can not concretely decide how the courts will judge in a lawsuit. And, as a general rule, judges can not be allocated administratively. The constitution states that the judges in their calling alone have to comply with the law. The courts must act as impartial conflict solvers, which everyone can trust. A judge must appear neutral when he or she is in court. A judge must therefore not bear symbols indicating a religious or political conviction. This must support the general trust in the courts.

The courts can also control the laws of the Folketing. The Folketing must not act in violation of the Constitution. This means that the courts can decide whether a law is contrary to the Constitution. In that case, the courts may deny the law, even if it is adopted by a majority in the parliament. However, the Danish courts have so far been very careful about violating laws. In some other countries, the courts have a greater tradition of conducting in-depth checks on whether the laws comply with the constitution of the country.

The courts control the government and the public administration. The courts can thus decide whether, for example, a ministry or municipality has taken an illegal decision in a case. Today, however, the citizens also have many other options if they want to complain about public administration. For example, many boards have been established that complement the courts and have the task of settling complaints. There is also access to appeal to the Folketing’s Ombudsman, who can comment on criticisms of the authorities’ decisions or case processing.

Finally, it is the task of the courts to resolve legal conflicts between the citizens and to judge in criminal cases where a citizen is accused of committing a criminal offense. The supreme court in Denmark is the Supreme Court. It has existed since 1661. The Supreme Court deals first and foremost with cases previously dealt with in one of the two national courts. It is therefore said that the Supreme Court is an appeal. This means that you can not bring cases directly to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court judgments are final and can not be appealed. It is said that the city court is the first court of law in Denmark, the district court the other, and the Supreme Court the third and final court of justice. There is one Supreme Court, two regional courts and 24 city councils. In addition, there is the Copenhagen Maritime and Commercial Court, which deals mainly with cases where knowledge of business relations is of importance.

General election

The free choice is one of the most important in a democracy. In parliamentary elections, the individual has an influence on which politicians and which political parties to sit in the parliament. Here, the voters can thus express their views on the past policy and the policy they want in the future. The individual elector is not obliged to vote in a parliamentary election. But in Denmark there is great interest in the elections. Normally, between 80 and 90 percent of voters vote in parliamentary elections. And so it has been since 1953.

Parliamentary elections shall be held at least every four years. It is stated in the Constitution. Folketing members are thus elected for a maximum of four years at a time, but there is no upper limit to how many times a member may nominate the parliament and be elected. It is the prime minister who is responsible for the election of new elections before the parliamentary term expires. It may be after the four years or earlier if the prime minister wishes it. Parliamentary elections are held as ordinary, direct and secret elections.

– Common means that all persons with Danish citizenship have the right of vote and thus entitled to vote at the election. However, they must be 18 years of age (age of government) and have permanent residence in the kingdom, ie in Denmark, Greenland or the Faroe Islands. – Directly means that it is voted directly on the nominated candidates or parties. – Secret means that voters can freely vote without anyone else being able to see who they are voting for. A person who has the right to vote for the Folketing usually also meets the conditions for being elected to the Folketing. It is said that the person is eligible. You must have Danish citizenship, at the age of 18, have permanent residence in Denmark (Denmark, Faroe Islands or Greenland).

Additionally, one should not be punished for an act that in common reputation makes one unworthy of being a member of the parliament. However, one can well stand up for a parliamentary election, even if you do not meet eligibility conditions, for example because you have been penalized previously. It is for the people of Parliament itself to decide whether a person who, according to the polls, has obtained a choice meets the conditions for becoming a member of the parliament. It is thus the Folketing, which determines whether he or she is punished for an act which in general reputation makes him or her unworthy of being a member of the parliament.

If you want to make a parliamentary election, there can be two ways. You can stand up as a candidate for a party entitled to participate in the election, a so-called eligible party, who will then approve one. It is by far the most common. In order for a batch to be eligible for registration, it must have collected a certain number of signatures, which must be approved by the Interior Minister. Normally it is about approx. 20,000 signatures. But you can also stand up as a candidate and be elected to the parliament outside the parties. Then at least 150 voters in one’s setup circle must signify that they recommend one before you can set up.

All voters who live in Denmark automatically receive a polling card. And on election day, the citizen can vote in two different ways. You can vote for a particular politician (candidate). It is called a personal voice. You can also vote for a political party. It’s called a party party. You only have to tick one of the ballot papers. There can therefore not be voted on more parties or on more candidates. When the votes have been spelled, the mandates (seats) are distributed in the Folketing. Then, the selected parties and members negotiate who will form a government.

The Danish election system

The Danish electoral system is such that the composition of the Folketing will, as far as possible, reflect the voters’ political positions. Mandates are distributed according to the proportional method. This means that, as far as possible, a political party receives the same share of seats in the parliament as the party’s share of the votes cast. For example, if a party has received 10 percent of the votes, it must have 10 percent of the mandates. The Danish electoral system also gives small parties good opportunities to attend the Folketing. In addition, they usually require at least 2 percent of the valid votes cast. This so-called barrier limit is relatively low. In Sweden and Norway, for example, it is 4 percent and in Germany 5 percent. In practice this means that many small parties throughout the ages have been represented in the parliament.


The Danish democracy is clearly expressed when the parliament is discussing and treating a bill. This is where the parties show their different political views and interests. And this is where you hear different views on how the Danish society should be organized. The Folketing’s debate about the content of the laws is therefore very central to the people’s government.

Legislation allows the Folketing to set the framework for Danish society and for citizens’ daily lives. Both the government and the individual member of parliament can make legislative proposals, ie propose a new law or propose to change an old one. In practice, however, the government makes the most proposals for legislation. It often takes a lot of work to draw up bills. And the necessary knowledge and labor is found especially in government ministries. However, one or more members of the Folketing may make a proposal for a parliamentary resolution requiring the government to draft a bill. A parliamentary resolution, like a law, must be adopted by a majority in the parliament.

The idea of ​​a new law or an amendment to an existing law may come from many different places. For example, the idea may originate from a citizen, association, interest organization or municipality. They may be aware of relationships that they wish to change. And sometimes it’s possible for a minister or member of parliament to raise the matter. Other times, it is a matter in the media that sets the political agenda. For example, it may be a television broadcast that allows a politician to propose a new law or a change of law. However, most initiatives come from the government itself when it comes to implementing its policy.

Part of the legislation that applies in Denmark is also a source of different forms of international cooperation. In particular, new rules in the EU play a major role.

A bill must undergo three treatments in the parliament before it can be finally adopted. The purpose is, inter alia, to ensure that the bills are dealt with thoroughly. The third reading of the bill ends with a vote. If there is a majority for the bill, it is adopted. If there is a majority against it, it will be rejected. Voting is only valid if more than half of the members of parliament participate, that is, at least 90 members. When the Folketing has adopted a bill, both the queen and a minister will write it below. Then the law will be published.


The basic principle of Danish democracy is that the elected politicians are the people’s representatives in the parliament and in the other political assemblies. That is, politicians make the political decisions on behalf of the population. However, politicians must be in charge of voters on election day.

This representative democracy is sometimes supplemented by direct democracy in the form of referendums. Here the people participate directly in the democratic decision-making process. They can thus decide whether they are for or against a particular bill.

The Constitution stipulates that some questions shall be settled by a referendum. This applies, for example, if the constitutional or electoral age is to be changed. A minority of members of the Folketing (at least one third, that is, 60 members) may also require that an adopted bill be submitted to the parliamentary voters for approval or rejection. There are also rules on referendum when Denmark gives the right to self-determination (sovereignty) by participating in international cooperation. If not less than 150 of the Folketing’s 179 members have said yes to Denmark’s participation in international cooperation, a referendum will be held on whether Denmark will participate in international cooperation. This provision has become particularly important in connection with Denmark’s membership of the EU.

Since the constitution was last amended in 1953, 14 referendums have been completed. Seven of them have been about Denmark’s relationship with the EU. In 2000, a majority of participating Danish voters voted against the introduction of the single European currency, the euro, in Denmark instead of the Danish krone. There was a majority in the parliament to introduce the euro, but the voters said no. In 2009, a majority voted for gender equality in the succession of the royal house, so that men and women have just inherited the throne. In 2014, the Danes voted yes for membership of the Common Patent Court, which is a common court on patent issues. At the last vote in 2015, Danes voted to change the Danish EU reservation on legal issues. Denmark’s relationship with the EU is discussed in more detail below in Chapter IV.


Local autonomy is a cornerstone of the Danish people’s government. It has deep roots in history that local communities solve many of the community’s common tasks. Denmark is one of the countries in Europe, which has done the most tasks with local and regional government in municipalities and regions. The tasks of the Danish municipalities in particular have grown strongly as the welfare society has developed. The municipalities and regions today solve a wide range of public sector tasks. In this way they are an important foundation for the welfare society. Local autonomy is a neighborhood democracy. It allows the individual citizen to influence the conditions that are close to the everyday lives of the citizens. It may be in the municipality or in the region. This is done through municipal and regional elections. In addition to national democracy in the parliament there is also a local and regional democracy in the country’s municipalities and regions.

The municipalities’ right to autonomously govern their affairs is in the constitution. But there is not much else about the municipalities, nor the tasks they need to solve. It is the Folketing, which sets the framework for local autonomy and determines the municipalities’ tasks. The state supervises how the municipalities solve their tasks. The idea behind local self-government is that public tasks that affect the daily lives of individual citizens must be solved as close as possible to the citizens. It is often called the subsidiarity principle. There is also a tradition that the municipalities should, as far as possible, be able to decide how they will solve and finance the local tasks. Often, municipalities have the opportunity to solve public tasks in the way that best suits the local needs and wishes. The municipalities also have the right to print taxes. Thus, they themselves help to get a part of the money to solve their tasks. But it is the parliament that determines the conditions for the work of the municipalities. And the relationship between state and municipalities is sometimes characterized by conflicts. The Folketing and the government are interested in the fact that the municipalities follow national policy and that all municipalities in the country give the citizens roughly the same offers and conditions. Conversely, some municipalities sometimes think that the government is mixing too much into local self-government. They believe that the municipalities are deprived of the opportunity to decide how they will solve the tasks themselves. The Danish municipal government is constantly evolving. On 1 January 2007, a major structural reform took effect. From that day on, many municipalities merged and the former 14 counties were replaced by 5 regions. The distribution of tasks between the state, municipalities and regions has also been redesigned.

Following the reform, Denmark consists of 98 municipalities and is divided into five regions:

– Region Hovedstaden with 29 municipalities – Region Zealand with 17 municipalities – Region of Southern Denmark with 22 municipalities – Central Denmark Region with 19 municipalities – Region of North Jutland with 11 municipalities.

Municipal councils and regional councils

The Danish municipalities are run by elected municipal councils, often called city councils. The municipal council’s chairman is called mayor and is elected by the municipal council just after the municipal elections. Similarly, each region is led by a regional council, which elects a chairman himself. Members of local councils as well as regional councils are elected for four years at a time. The election is held all over the country every four years in November, and municipalities can not choose to hold elections at other times.

Any public citizen has the right to participate in municipal and regional elections. You only have to be 18 years old and have permanent residence in the municipality or region. You do not have to have Danish citizenship in order to participate in municipal and regional elections. It is enough that you are either a citizen of another EU country, Iceland or Norway or without interruption have lived in Denmark in the last three years preceding the election day. All citizens who have the right to vote for municipal elections and regional elections may as a rule also nominate candidates for these elections.

Most nationwide political parties also participate in local elections in municipalities and regions, but other parties and groups can also participate. Local questions often make local groups of citizens available on their own candidate lists, so-called local lists. Localists often fight for specific local policy goals.

The municipal and regional organizations

The regions and municipalities of the country have many similar tasks and interests. Therefore, they work closely together through the Danish Regions and KL (Municipal Association of Local Authorities). The overall objectives of the two organizations are to strengthen local autonomy in the regions and municipalities. For example, KL represents the municipalities in negotiations with the government about municipal finances and on legislative proposals.


There are many participants in a democracy. The voters are the basis for the people’s government. It is those who provide politicians with power. In the daily political life, politicians and parties play a key role in the adoption of new legislation. But there are many others trying to influence democratic decisions. Interest organizations and associations try to influence political life. The media also mean a lot about the issues that come on the political agenda. In addition, the private sector and the public sector also play a part. Some of the democracy’s many participants are described below.


It is the basis of democracy that all power is taken from the people, that is, the voters. And there is a hard fight about the favorites of the voters. Still fewer voters vote for the same party in elections after election. 50 years ago most voters voted in a party that corresponded to their work and class in society. The workers typically voted for Social Democracy, the peasants voted for the Left, and the citizenship typically voted for the Conservative People’s Party. The voters were true to their party and against the party’s ideology. They voted for the same party every single time, almost regardless of how the party was acting in the political system. Such is not necessarily more. The voters are more likely to vote according to their opinions. There may be attitudes to topics that are politically relevant or to which the individual elector is particularly interested. It may be unemployment, immigration, welfare, environment or something else fifth. Thus, both the choices and the rest of the political life have become more difficult to predict.

The political parties

The political parties are probably the most important participants in Danish democracy. In the elections, the political struggle takes place between the parties. In the choice between different political parties, voters can express their political views. The parties act as a speaker of the different political positions of the population and today also have a major influence on voters’ attitudes. The parties play a decisive role in daily political work. This applies, for example, when deciding whether there is a majority for a bill or the like.

Summary of Parties in the Parliamentary Assembly (2015)

– Social Democrats – Danish People’s Party – Left, Liberal Party of Denmark – Unity List – The Red-Green – Liberal Alliance – Alternate – Radical Left – SF – Socialist People’s Party – Conservative People’s Party – Javanese Party – Empire – Inuit Ataqatigiit – Siumut

Political parties are not mentioned at all in the Constitution. When Denmark received its first constitution in 1849, there were no political parties known to them today. A member of the Reichstag should serve the entire people and not be bound by special interests. However, as the government stepped up in the second half of the 19th century, political interest groups emerged. Several of the existing political parties emerged during this period.

Around 1870, the parties (United) Left and (United) Right formed. The right came to consist of politicians who had already been elected to the Riksdag. It was partly landowners, and partly representatives of the Party De Nationaaliberale. The Left, in particular, received his election support from the new groups of self-employed farmers. At the same time, a working class and a labor movement, organized in the Social Democracy in 1878, arose. In 1905, part of the party left out in the radical left, who especially picked up his votes among academics and housewives. In 1915 the Right reorganized and changed its name to the Conservative People’s Party.

Thus the foundation for Danish politics was established. Until 1973, it was these four parties that characterized Danish politics. There were other smaller parties, but the four old parties were in power in changing governments. In addition, there was the tradition that major political changes were adopted as a broad settlement between all four parties. Socialist People’s Party (SF) is the only party that arose during this period, and is still represented in the parliament. SF was established in 1959.

At the Landslid elections in 1973, many new parties came to the Folketing, including the Christian People’s Party, the Progress Party and the Center Democrats. This ended the era in which the four old parties dominated Danish politics. During the 1980s and 1990s, several new parties emerged. In 1989, the Unity List was established by collecting a number of parties on the Danish left.

And in 1995 the Danish People’s Party was formed as an expiry of the Progress Party. In recent years, the parties are the New Alliance, which changed its name to the Liberal Alliance, and the Alternative has entered the parliament. You can, as a citizen, be a member of one of the political parties. There were about 650,000 people around 1950. It corresponded to almost every fourth electorate. Today there are far fewer members of a political party. This trend is also seen in many other countries. The voters have found new ways of expressing their political attitudes. By the beginning of the 2000s, the total membership of the political parties in Denmark was thus reduced to about 180,000. It is these barely five percent of the voters who decide which candidates the rest of the population can vote for in elections. It is often the members of the parties who decide who a party should appoint as candidates. Although the political parties have fewer members, they are still very important participants in democratic life and they also have a very big influence on voters’ positions.

Politicians and MPs

A member of parliament is bound only by his personal convictions and not by any regulations of the voters or their parties. This is stated in the Danish constitution. That is, the member represents only himself. He or she can therefore vote against his party’s official policy, for example, if it violates his or her personal positions. As a rule, however, individual politicians follow their party’s political line. In some cases, a party in the Folketing decides that its members are freed. In such cases, the party does not adopt a common position. Most often, it is a matter of morality and ethics. It may be in discussions about abortion and artificial fertilization or about homosexuals’ rights.

A member of the Folketing may also choose to step out of his party if he or she no longer agrees with his party’s opinions. In that case, the person may become either a non-attached member or a member of another party. But he or she retains its membership of the parliament and may participate in polls.

Interests and associations

In Denmark there is a tradition that politicians involve associations and interest organizations in political decisions. The relevant organizations are heard and may be allowed to appear in the parliamentary committee’s various committees when working on new legislation that affects their interests and members. Interesting organizations are looking for influence and influence the political agenda. But they often also contribute with useful knowledge to the political process. Interest organizations are often included in committees and working groups set up by the government. From 2009 to 2011, for example, the animals’ protection took part in the work of the Ministry of Justice on Dogs. The committee should investigate whether there was a need to amend the legislation on dogs.

Interest organizations emerged at the same time as the political parties in the late 1800s. Initially there were employers’ associations, unions and agricultural associations. While the parties took care of the political struggle, interest groups focused more closely on the members’ financial conditions and working conditions. During this period and until the 20th century there was close ties between parties and interest organizations. Social Democracy cooperated with LO (National Organization in Denmark), the Conservative People’s Party with the Danish Employers’ Association, and the Left with the Agricultural Council. Throughout the last 25 years, however, the close relations between parties and organizations have been somewhat resolved. But the interest groups still play an active role in political life.

Today, interest organizations and associations cover almost all areas of political life. The old organizations are complemented by a number of new areas such as environmental protection, health and leisure life.

The media and the public debate

The media play an important role in democracy in Denmark in several ways. On the one hand there are radio, television, newspapers, magazines, etc. help bring the political debate to a broader circle of citizens. On the other hand, the media also act as channels where citizens can contribute to the debate with their opinions. Finally, the media can even influence the political agenda. In all three ways, they act as a link between politicians and voters.

The Danish media are independent of the government. Therefore, they can freely debate and relate critically to the political agenda. That is indispensable for the people’s government. Earlier, a number of Danish newspapers served as a speaker of political parties. In other words, they were party politically governed. Even in many smaller cities, four newspapers, representing the four old parties, appeared: Social Democracy, Left, Radical Left, and Conservative People’s Party. The papers faithfully expressed their views, and the readers were often members of the party. During the 1960s, the newspapers changed the character and released themselves from the political parties. From the 1980s, the newspapers have even more clearly assumed the task of “society’s watchdog”. That is, on behalf of citizens, they watch all forms of magistrates. In most media, a story that is critical of power is perceived as a good news story. Therefore, people have started talking about the media as “the fourth state power”.


Democracy is broad to many parts of Danish society. For example, there is a tradition that citizens can help determine the framework for their everyday lives. For example, in the local school where parents and students can discuss the school’s relationship in the school board or in class and student councils. This democracy in everyday life is also found in boards of housing and cooperative associations. There is also a long tradition that employees have insight into and influence on the conditions in their workplace. In all these contexts, we work on democratic principles.

Denmark is also characterized by a rich association and organizational life. There are not many other countries where people are members of so many associations and organizations. About 90 percent of the Danish population is a member of at least one association. About 70 percent have participated actively in an association, and about 40 percent have volunteered through an association. On average, every single Danes is a member of three to four associations or organizations. There may be organizations in the labor market or leisure organizations where members gather about a common hobby or interest. Others are members of organizations that will promote specific purposes, such as protecting the environment. For many citizens, the union and everyday democracy also act like a training in democracy. Here you discuss matters with each other, gather knowledge, test arguments, compromise and vote on proposals. The participants are thus used to trying to find reasonable solutions to the problems they have gathered. In other words, the life of associations and democracy in everyday life gives the citizens a practical knowledge of democratic values ​​and principles.

The most widespread democratic activity is to vote in parliamentary elections or regional and municipal elections. You do not have to vote, but it does the vast majority anyway. The election participation is particularly high when there are elections to the parliament. It is a little lower when voting for municipal and regional elections, but still quite high. In elections to the European Parliament, there are significantly fewer votes. The generally high voting percentage in Denmark may have more explanations. One of them is that the Danes like children and young people are being given up for democracy. They learn to know early democratic values. This occurs, for example, in primary and lower secondary education. Another explanation is that the strong tradition of joining in associations reinforces the democratic values ​​of citizens. Finally, it can also mean that democracy in Denmark has, from the outset, been a popular project. Democracy was carried out by the peasants and workers. They were organized early in the big movements that became part of the Left and Social Democracy. It has created a tradition for democratic participation, which still affects Denmark. The Danes today are generally very satisfied with their democracy. They trust the democratic institutions, state, region and municipality. But not necessarily to the elected political leaders – the confidence of politicians goes up and down. The population’s political participation is high compared to many other countries. However, for a long time, the participation has changed character. Fewer are today members of a political party. And the so-called grassroots movements today play a lesser role than they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, new ways have been created to express political attitudes. This could be by signing a political statement (signature collection), by giving money to a political or humanitarian case or by taking political or ethical considerations as a consumer. Many also participate in political discussions on the Internet.



In a democracy like the Danish there is a limit to the power of the state to the individual citizen. Citizens have a number of fundamental rights that the state must respect and protect them against the abuse of state power. The Constitution thus contains a number of freedoms and human rights that the state power, including the Folketing, must respect. The Constitution contains, inter alia, the protection of freedom of expression (the right to express his views freely and express his thoughts freely to others), freedom of assembly (the right to freely gather and jointly express opinions) and freedom of association (the right to form associations and to be a member of associations).

Both freedom of expression, assembly and freedom of association are essential prerequisites for democracy. They are called political freedoms. If the people’s government is to work, there must be a free and open debate. People should have the right to criticize, challenge and ask critical questions to the powers. Everyone must also have the right to meet with others and to be a member of a political association. Citizens must be able to freely develop and mark common positions, regardless of whether they oppose the majority views. In Denmark, these fundamental freedoms, as mentioned, are protected by the constitution. This means that citizens have the right to express themselves, form associations and hold meetings without the state having to approve this in advance. The Danish constitution prohibits censorship. This means that the government can not demand that, for example. Books and newspapers must be approved before they are published.

Any freedom is exercised under responsibility. There are thus certain limits to the political freedoms. For example, if you exceed the limits of the law for freedom of expression, you may be punished and sentenced to pay compensation as appropriate. This applies, for example, to referring to other citizens in a way that violates their glory (injuries). This also applies if the press exceeds the limits of freedom of expression, for example. by writing something injurious about a person. An association can also be judged illegal and required dissolved if it works or seeks to achieve its goal by violence or by other illegality. But the limits are known. And it is part of democracy that only the courts can decide whether the limits of freedom of expression have been violated.

The Constitution also limits the state’s ability to intervene in the privacy of the individual citizen. The Constitution protects the personal freedom, the property’s inviolability and property rights.

The Constitution also has provisions that ensure citizens the right to certain public services. Children are entitled to free primary school education. And citizens are entitled to some public assistance if they meet certain obligations in the law. The Constitution also contains some rules that prohibit discrimination. The constitution states that, on the basis of faith and descent, no distinction can be made between citizens’ rights or obligations to fulfill ordinary civil liberties.

When rights are stated in the Constitution, the Folketing and the government must not legislate in breach of these rights. Ultimately, it is up to the independent courts to assess if that happens. Citizens’ fundamental rights are not only protected by the constitution, but also by rules adopted by the Folketing and by international conventions which Denmark has acceded.

Among other things, the parliament has adopted a number of laws that protect citizens from discrimination (discrimination). In Denmark, it is forbidden to discriminate a person because of the person’s gender. Men and women should be treated equally. It is also forbidden to discriminate because of a person’s age, race, belief, sexual orientation or ethnic origin. This means, for example, that it is forbidden to discriminate a job applicant because the person has a different ethnic origin than Danish.

In 1992, the European Convention on Human Rights became part of Danish legislation. The Convention on Human Rights complements and extends the freedoms and human rights that follow from the Constitution. The courts can decide whether Danish authorities comply with the requirements of the Convention. Denmark may be sentenced by the European Court of Human Rights if its laws and decisions violate the requirements of the Convention.


Public administration – state authorities, regions and municipalities – have the task of implementing the country’s laws. Public administration must, among other things, provide the welfare society’s offerings to the public. It is also the public administration that charges taxes. Public administration must comply with the laws of the country when carrying out its duties. This applies to both state, regional and local authorities. Public administration can not trade on its own. It is said that the actions of the administration must be based on a law. And the administration must not act in violation of the laws. According to the Constitution, it is the independent courts that control public administration. At the same time, the state must supervise the municipalities. Citizens may also appeal to a number of boards if, for example, they believe that their municipality has not complied with the law’s rules. In the Danish constitution, it is also decided that the administration is controlled by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Ombudsman assesses whether there have been errors or omissions in the work of public authorities. The Ombudsman must help ensure that the public authorities do not act illegally and treat the citizens in accordance with applicable law and give them the rights they are entitled to. The Ombudsman is elected by the Parliament, but is independent in his work. Neither the parliament, government nor public authorities can interfere with the Ombudsman’s work. In opposition to the courts, the Ombudsman of the Folketing may not override the decisions of the public authorities. However, the Ombudsman’s written statements are of great importance to the behavior of the government.


Transparency (public) is often emphasized as one of the most important assumptions of democracy. Each citizen must be able to get information about the state and its actions. Both the legislative, judicial and executive powers are thus governed by public rules: – Folketinget: The meetings are public so that everyone can attend and attend the meetings in the parliamentary hall. It is directly stated in the Constitution. – Courts: In principle, citizens are allowed to attend all legal proceedings. And the media must be free to inform the people about what is happening in the litigation. The courts may, however, decide that a lawsuit must be kept for closed doors. Neither citizens nor journalists have access to the courtroom.

– Public administration: Citizens have the right to gain insight into the work of the public administration. It follows from the Public Administration Act that a party to a case has a right of access to the documents of the case. And every citizen is usually entitled to know the information held by the public administration about him. The Public Procurement Act stipulates that anyone under certain conditions has the right to see the documents held by an authority. But there are exactly the conditions and limits for this right. Similarly, the Public Administration Act has laid down conditions and limits on access to parties.


WARRANTY: The duty of conscience is a common social responsibility. The Constitution determines that every Danish man has a duty to personally take part in the country’s defense. This means that all men over the age of 18 are required to perform military service for a period of time if they are appropriate. In practice, there is no need for all young men to earn their military service in a vintage. If there are no volunteers, it will be decided by dragging whether military service is required. Failure to do so will result in imprisonment. If the outcome of the draw is that you do not have to pay military service, you are said to have deducted. While men have military service, women can perform military service on a statutory basis. This means that women can contribute to the country’s defense if they wish. But they are not required.

The military service lasts between 4 and 12 months. It depends on which service is called. The majority of the conscripts serve for four months. For conscience reasons, you do not want to defend your military service in defense or rescue preparedness, you can become a military recruiter. A military cousin can perform his military service by doing other work for the benefit of society. It may, for example, be in institutions for children, young people and the elderly or in cultural institutions such as museums and theaters. If a military denier refuses to perform the assigned work, he can be punished with imprisonment.

CURRENT OMBUD: Another duty in Danish society is the civilian representative – or just a representative. A representative is a task (a task) that society can impose on a citizen. Anyone appointed for such a mission must accept it. For example, sitting in a municipal council if the citizen is elected or acting as a judge (judge or judge) by a court. Doctors are ordinary people who judge in a criminal case. They must partly assess whether the accused person is guilty of helping to determine what the penalty should be (criminal investigation).

PENALTY: If a citizen fails to comply with the law, he or she can often be punished. It does, however, require that a law stipulates that the crime can be punished. The most serious crimes are contained in the Criminal Code. It includes provisions on family crimes, crimes against gender divisions (sexual offenses), crimes against life and body (violence and killing) and enrichment crimes (theft, etc.). In Denmark, the criminal age is 15 years. This means that children and adolescents under the age of 15 can not be punished for a crime. This is because they are considered immature and unable to assess the consequences of their actions. There can not be imposed death penalty in Denmark.

Criminal proceedings: However, it is not the courts themselves, but only the prosecutor who can raise a criminal case. This is stated in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Certain less serious criminal cases must, to a large extent, be raised by private individuals. This applies, for example, to cases of peace and defamation. The prosecutor is the public authority who, on behalf of society, decides whether a criminal case must be brought before the courts. The courts then determine whether the citizen owes and is to be punished. The prosecutor’s supreme authority is the Ministry of Justice, led by the Minister of Justice. The actual head of the prosecutor’s office is the Attorney General, who has some state prosecutors and police officers. The police are part of the government administration. This means that the state has overall responsibility for the police.

The prosecutor must convince the judges that the accused is guilty. Any reasonable doubt shall be granted to the accused. But the police must obtain the necessary evidence through investigation. If you want to report a crime, it must also be done to the police. However, there is usually no obligation to report a crime to the police. Both the police and prosecutor are obliged to be objective and ensure that they are the right persons to be punished and the innocent are not prosecuted.

The law of law has rules on what action the police can take towards a citizen when investigating a case. Police officers shall not apply for compulsion during consultation. Therefore, they can not force a person to explain. However, anyone is required to give up the name, address and date of birth to the police. If a citizen complains about the conduct of the police, a complaint can be made to the Independent Police Appeals Authority. Under certain conditions, the police may arrest a person who is reasonably suspected of a criminal offense. If a citizen is arrested, he or she must be asked for a referee within 24 hours. It is up to the judge to decide whether the citizen is to be released or detained, while the police and prosecutor investigate the case. The referee may also choose to maintain the arrest for three times 24 hours.