Danish politics, economy, religion and more
The only thing that some people know about Denmark in Europe and the USA is that the Nordic country has great public services and that pretty much everything works fine up here. Is this true? How are danish politics and institutions? What is the danish economy like? What political parties rule the country? Since I moved to Denmark I have had the chance to know the country and being politics and economics some of my biggest interests I wanted to share some of my findings and opinions with you. Hopefully, the topic won't be too boring. I have checked how many people read my posts and the most read one was the one in which I talked about student parties in Copenhagen so I don't expect this one to become number one. Let's get started with it though.
Denmark is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy like Spain. Margrethe II is the current queen and she has been Denmarks' head of state since 1972. She has practically no powers and her role is mainly representative and ceremonial. Unlike in Spain, her popularity is very high amongst most sectors of the danish society and amongst most political ideologies. She is rather a special woman. She enjoys being in close contact with society and she enjoys painting, directing theater performances, and other artistic stuff. The executive power does not lie on the monarch but on the government and its Prime Minister. Nowadays the person in charge is Mette Frederiksen from the Social Democratic Party of Denmark. Politics in Denmark are not as divisive as in other western countries such as Spain, the UK or the USA. By this I mean that there are many consensuses that most political parties don't hesitate to break and this leads to a political culture based on agreement rather than division. This has been proven during the COVID-19 crisis in Denmark as I already explained in the previous post.
After this brief introduction to danish politics, I would like to briefly summarize and present the different political parties that are part of the legislative chamber, the Folketinget. The biggest party at the moment is the Social Democratic Party lead of Frederiksen but also of the first-ever danish women Prime Minister Helle Thorning (2011-2015). The party is the typical Nordic social democratic party. They are usually supported by other parties on the left spectrum. The second biggest party at the moment is Venstre. Venstre is a center-right liberal party even if Venstre means "left" in danish. This party has held the PM office several times the last being from 2015 to 2019 with PM Rasmussen. Denmark is not immune to the rise of far-right parties. Actually, the Dansk Folkeparti which is now the third-largest party was already a big thing in Denmark before Salvini, Vox, Orban and Le Pen. The party has lost votes in the last elections but its impact has been strong on the public debate about immigration, one of the hottest issues in the sometimes boring danish politics. The fourth party is the social-liberal Radikale. They currently support the social democrats and the left block even if they are part of the liberal European family of Macron and Ciudadanos. There are also parties at the left of the social democrats. These are the Socialistik Folkeparti and the most leftist party in Denmark: The ecosocialist and anticapitalist Red-Green Alliance. There are also minority right-wing parties whose ideology lies between the one of Venstre and the Dansk Folkeparti. These are Konservative and Nye Borgerlige. The only party that is against high taxation and the big welfare state is the libertarian party Liberal Alliance, also a minority party that usually supports Venstre governments. There are also some smaller parties in the Folketinget such as the green party Alternativet, the centrist party Fremad and the regional/national parties of the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Now that I mention the Faroe Islands and Greenland I think it is interesting to mention the territorial division of Denmark. Mainland Denmark is basically divided into 5 administrative regions that were created in 2007 after merging 16 former counties. Denmark is a small country so it makes less sense to have a Federal system like the one in the USA or in Germany. These administrative regions are Sjælland, Hovedstaden, Syddanmark, Midtjylland and Nordjylland. The Jylland peninsula is connected to Germany and continental Europe while Fyn (Syddanmark) and Sjæland (where Copenhagen lies) are the two biggest of the many islands that Denmark has. Denmark has two autonomous territories that self-govern themselves in most issues besides military and foreign affairs. These two territories are Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Politics is not only about the political organization, the political parties, and parliaments but is also about the issues that society cares about and the troubles that societies have so let's talk about that.
What is the situation of religion in modern Denmark? Christianity is the dominant religion. Around 75 % of the population are members of the Danish Church which is Protestant and Lutheran. Even if these numbers are rather impressive only 3 % of Danes attend church weekly and less than 20 % of them consider religion to be a fundamental part of their lives, practically making it one of the most non-religious countries in Europe. There is also a Muslim minority (5 %) mainly because of Turkish, Somali, and Iranian immigration.
Denmark is a member state of the European Union and the OTAN but what how do Danes feel about the European project? Danes overwhelmingly voted to join the union back in 1986 and nowadays less than 10 % of the population supports "Danexit". Still, Denmark is not part of the eurozone as its citizens voted to reject the common currency in a Referendum in 200 and that is why they still use the Danish kroner (1 euro is approximately 7,5 dkk). Denmark looks far from leaving the European Union but its government and institutions usually align with Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and other northern countries to pressure southern countries like Italy, Greece or Spain towards more fiscally "responsible" economic policy. This tension has risen again during the COVID19 crisis and the attitude of Denmark and other countries is seen by many people in the south as anti-European. This is a rather complex issue but it might spark Euroscepticism all around the continent and Denmark might not be an exception.
Going back to the idea that people have of Denmark. Does democracy work so well in Denmark? Is Denmark paradise on earth? We could discuss many things here but let's keep it simple and look at indexes and rankings. Denmarks ranks 7th in the Democracy Index that measures electoral processes and political pluralism, the functioning of government, political culture, and civil liberties. It also ranks 8th on the Economic Freedom Index, it is the 3rd country in the EU regarding income equality and is the 18th country with the highest GDP/capita in the world. Not bad at all.
I could say many more things about danish politics and economy but this might be even too much for today. If you reached this point you either love me very much or are really interested in Denmark. Thanks!