Denmark or officially
known as the Kingdom of Denmark is currently home to 5,744,111 people of
various ethnicities. With majority of the population being Scandinavian, the
major religion practised is Christianity. However other religions such as
Buddhism and Islam are also practised by a small minority. The official
language of Denmark is Danish. Although, Faroese, Greenlandic, and German is
also spoken as Denmark shares its border with Germany.
In terms of freedom and transparency, Denmark is
classified as a free country by the Freedom House database. Denmark has an
aggregate score of 97 on a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 being the least free and
100 being most free. The Political
Rights and Civil Liberties are also free with the scale of 1 on 7. Press Freedom
status is also free where the press can act as a watchdog for the government
and there is freedom of speech.
Behind the mirage of being named the happiest country in the world,
Denmark faces various challenges due the harsh governmental policies towards
immigrants and high cost of living. This paper will discuss the state formation
and the becoming of modern Denmark, the political institutes and the current
challenges faced by the people and the government.
Denmark today is well known as the home of the inventors that brought us
Emoji’s, Skype and The Lego Group. However, the country can trace its formation
all the way back to the 10th century. During this period, Denmark
was undergoing the Vikings age where many Vikings settled in the country and
practised trading and agriculture. In 958AD, King Harald “Bluetooth”
Gormsson of the Jelling dynasty was pronounced king and he introduced
Christianity, that still remains a major religion in Denmark today. Kings
Harold’s father, King Gorm the Old, also commissioned a stone called Jelling Stone
as a memorial honor to his wife Queen Thyre. Jelling stones can still be found
in elling, Vejle Municipality, Denmark.
2.1 Battle of
Copenhagen (1801, 1807)
During the Russian Revolution, Denmark and Sweden
signed an armed neutrality treaty in 1974. Later, Russia also adhered to this
treaty in order to get closer to Napoleon to pledge allegiance to the French.
The British alliance felt threatened by this and hence decided to attack Denmark.
On April 2, A British naval fleet, under the command of Admiral Hyde Parker,
engaged on an aquatic battle with the Danish navy. However, much to the former
fleet’s knowledge, the Russian had just been assassinated a day earlier.
In 1807, the British
attacked Denmark again in order to destroy the Dano-Norwegian. This was because
although, Denmark remained neutral during the Napoleonic wars, it was under
great pressure from the French and Russia to pledge allegiance to Napoleon.
In 1849, Denmark took its first step towards democracy
and formed a constitutional Monarchy in the pursuit to limit and control the
powers of the King. In addition to the monarch, the country formed a bicameral
parliamentary system with two chambers: Folketing, which was the lower house
and Landsting, the upper house. During this period, the king still had the most
executive power and acted through their ministers in the parliament. In modern
day Denmark, the monarch only has a rubber stamp role and the Landsting has
been abolished as it was found ineffective. This provided the executive power
to the Prime Minister and the Legislative Power to the Folketing.
2.3 World War I (1941 – 1945)
Maintaining a neutral state during World War,
2.4 Economic Growth
and Social Integration (1949 to 1973)
The 24 years between 1949 through 1973, Denmark joined
various world-wide associations to promote economic growth and trade. Denmark
joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. This organization
is an “intergovernmental military alliance” between currently 29 countries in
the North American and European regions. The main purpose of this organization
is to provide a sense of security and freedom to its members. In 1952, Denmark founded
the Nordic Council after World War II. This organization is a “geo-political
inter-parliamentary forum” to create cooperation between the Nordic countries
such as Denmark including Greenland and Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway
and Sweden. The council’s headquarters are still present in Copenhagen. Denmark
became the member of the European Free Trade Association in 1959. This
association promotes free trade and economic integration between its members.
In 1973, European Economic community, whose purpose was to also to build and
strengthen economic ties amongst countries, gained Denmark as its member.
3. Political institutes:
remained a constitutional monarchy since 1849. This suggests that the country
was still under the rule of the monarch, however a parliament was also present
and the country had a proper governmental institution.
3.1 The Monarchy
Denmark has a Queen who is the head of state. Queen Margrethe II ascended the
throne from her father, after a bill was passed allowing a woman to undertake
the responsibility of the throne in 1953. In the constitution of Denmark, it is
stated that the monarch has supreme power and this power is acted upon through
their ministers in the legislative chambers. However, in practice, the duties
of the monarch are representative and formal. The major role of the monarch is
the formal appointment or dismissal of governmental figures, after the vote of
Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, it runs on a parliamentary system with
two branches of government; The Executive and The Legislative branches. The two
branches are interdependent to maintain checks and balancing. However, the
legislative holds more power than the executive branch.
3.2 The Legislative Branch
The legislative branch in Denmark is unicameral as
there is only one chamber of the parliament called the Folketing. Members of
the Folketing are based on a proportional representation of the political
parties from each division with an electoral threshold of 2%. There are 179
members in the Folketing; 175 are Danes and there are additional four members,
two members each, from Greenland and Faroe Islands. Despite being granted
self-government, Greenland and Faroe island are still under the Danish
government in regard to foreign affairs and defense. The Folketing is in charge
of passing and supervising all laws proposed by the cabinet and members are
also in charge of allocating state budgets. Furthermore, the Folketing has the
power to abdicate any current prime minister with a vote of no confidence.
3.3 The Executive Branch
The executive branch is operated by the Prime Minister
and the cabinet (regeringen). The Prime
Minister is the head of government. The cabinet consists of 17 ministers of a
political party appointed by the Prime Minister. The Prime minister, who is
first among equals, is determined by their support and popularity in Folketing
as the Prime minister is appointed by the Folketing and is formally introduced
by the monarch. The cabinet and the prime minister are in charge of proposing
new policies and requesting for certain budgets from the Folketing. Prime
Ministers in Denmark do not hold as much power and in other countries, this is
due to the presence of various political parties in the Folketing. The current
Prime Minister of Denmark is Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the head of Venstre, a
conservative liberal political party.
3.4 The Political Parties
that no single party has held majority in the Folketing since the 20th century,
there are eight parties in attendance of the Folketing currently. The four
major parties are: The
Liberal Party (Venstre), The Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne), Danish
People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) and The Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk
Folkeparti). The four minority parties are: The Conservative People’s Party (Det Konservative Folkeparti), The Danish
Social Liberal Party (Det Radikale Venstre), New Alliance (Ny Alliance) and The
Red-Green Alliance (Unity List) (Enhedslisten de Rød-Grønne)
The Liberal Party (Venstre)
is the winning Centre-right party with 26.26% of the votes and 46 seats. It was established in 1840 when it
focused on protecting land interests however since 1960s it has developed into
a classical liberal party. The
Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne) is a Centre-left party
with 25.47% of the votes and 45 seats. It is one of the strongest parties in
Denmark and the party heavily advocates the practice of democratic socialism.
People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) is a right-wing party with 13.86% of the
votes and 25 seats. It is a well-known party opposing immigration and Denmark’s
participation in the European Union (EU). The Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk
Folkeparti) is a left-wing party with 13.04% of the votes
and 23 seats. The leader is this party was originally from the communist party
therefore the party is encouraged by Eurocommunism.
The Conservative People’s Party (Det
Konservative Folkeparti) is
a Centre-right party with 10.39% of the votes and 18 seats.
The Danish Social Liberal Party (Det
Radikale Venstre) is
a Centre party with 5.12 % of the votes and 9 seats. New Alliance (Ny Alliance) is a Centre-right party with 2.81% of the votes and 5 seats. Lastly, The Red-Green Alliance (Unity List) (Enhedslisten
de Rød-Grønne) is
a left most party with 2.17% of the votes and 4 seats.
3.5 The Judiciary
The Judiciary in Denmark is independent from the legislative and the
executive branch. The judiciary acts through its seven courts and plays a major
role in the system through checks and balances. The seven courts are The
Supreme Court (Højesteret), The two
High Courts (Landsretten): The Eastern and Western High Courts, The
Copenhagen Maritime and Commercial Court (Sø- og Handelsretten i
København), The Land Registration Court, 24
district courts (Byretten) and the courts of the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
4. Current Challenges
any other country, Denmark faces various challenges. Tension over immigration,
Terrorism and High Taxation are the challenges that are most prominent in the
Danish community. This in turn, pressurises and sets high expectations for the
government to achieve.
4.1 Tension over immigration and asylum seekers
challenge facing Denmark currently is the perception of immigrants and asylum
seekers by political figures. These asylum seekers are essentially refugees
that escaped their own country, mainly Iraq, in order to seek shelter from the
harsh circumstances in their own countries such as war or other forms of
2000s Denmark tightened its immigrant and integration policies. The country
also increased the period of time that immigrants should live in Denmark in
order to apply for permanent residence. In addition to that, Denmark does not
accept the idea of a dual citizenship, hence the immigrants have to denounce
their former citizenship in order to become a Dane.
In order to
gain a Danish citizenship, the refugees have to go through a 40-questioned
multiple choice questionnaire. This questionnaire demands knowledge of the
Danish political institutes, culture, history and society. This emphasises the
government’s belief that that each citizen needs to share a certain historical
identity in order to become a true “Dane”. “Furthermore, a Danish national
identity is presented as a Christian identity, which implicitly opposes Danish
identity to other religions, particularly Islam.”
the harsh governmental policies, Immigrants, particularly Muslims, face a few
cases of discrimination daily. In an account from the book “Iraqi women in
Denmark” the interviewee, Umm Ali, suggested that even though legally citizens,
in the eye of the public they would always be recognised as foreigners and feel
the presence of an ethnic exclusiveness. The discrimination they faced could
possibly be in minor acts such a good morning greeting of a bus driver to other
White Danes but not Muslims or on a higher level by the governmental debates,
which are almost always discussing the immigration policies and refugee intake.
Even the media has a minor hint of islamophobia where the Muslim community is
portrayed in a negative light.
like a second home to these immigrants. They feel that they a have more diverse
and larger friend circle here due to the people from various cities of Iraq.
However, more importantly, Denmark serves to provide them a “more comfortable
and secure life than they would be able to lead in Iraq.”
Another problem faced
by Denmark is the threat of terrorism. After a few cases, most recently a
shooting by an Islamist terrorist by the name of Omar El-Hussein in February
2015 pressured the government to tighten immigration policies and security.
Before killing himself and five police officers, Hussein shot dead a film-maker
and a guard at a free-speech debate. This arose criticism towards the
The consequence of
these attacks is the increasing number of Islamophobia amongst Danes. This was
evident in public and political debates in Denmark. In 2016, a leading British
newspaper reported a “religious apartheid: leading Danish politician calls for
a ban on Muslim Refugees.” In the article, it was reported that the Leader of
People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti), Soeren Espersen, voiced out his opinion
about the immigration policy and a strict ban on Muslim refugees as this was a
“respite after recent terrorist attacks”. The party leader holds the entire
Muslim community responsible and guilty of the terrorist attacks. While some
politicians disagree, this can be a major problem for Denmark if the Danish
People’s Party comes into power, there could be a possibility of a De Jure
discrimination in the country.
4.3 High cost of living
Lastly, a minor problem in Denmark
is the high cost of living due to high taxation. Denmark charges a large
percentage, 51%, of the national income as taxation from residents. Despite the
high taxation, Danes are rarely found complaining about this hefty charge as most
of the taxation is used to improve infrastructure and provide excellent public
services. The tax revenue is used to provide “free health
care, child care, sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, guaranteed
vacations, free university tuition, early childhood programs, and much more.”
In consideration of this, Denmark continues to be titled one of the happiest
countries in the world with a higher life expectancy and low poverty rate.
In conclusion, it is
important to note that although Denmark is recognized worldwide for its
infrastructure, monarchy and general way of life, it has its own sets of
challenges to face. In this current situation, it has become important for
Danes to elect the best political figures to represent and govern the country in
order to lead it to a brighter future creating a country that is secure, free
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