New centre-left coalition government brings Denmark’s first woman prime minister to power

By Michael de Laine, 4th October 2011

Led by Denmark’s first woman prime minister, a new centre-left coalition government took office on Monday, 3 October. The new government includes the country’s first minister with an immigrant background and the youngest minister in the whole of Europe. It aims at being a government for the whole of Denmark.

Led by Denmark’s first woman prime minister, a new centre-left coalition government took office on Monday, 3 October, just 24 hours before the official opening of Folketinget, the Danish parliament.

The coalition government, comprising the Social Democrats, the Socialist People’s Party and the Social Liberals, does not have a majority in the 179-seat parliament. But it does enjoy some support from the Red/Greens and three of the four politicians elected by Greenland and the Faroe Islands – who will not vote unconditionally for all of the coalition’s policies, but rather prevent the coalition from being voted down.

As well as Denmark’s first woman prime minister, the Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the coalition includes the country’s first minister with an immigrant background and the youngest minister in the whole of Europe. And it is the first time that the Socialist People’s Party is part of a Danish government.

Through these developments, the election, on 15 September, and the subsequent government and political agreement between the three coalition parties, have changed the Danish parliamentary picture for ever.

The election results altered the balance both between and in the red and blue blocs. In the last election, on 13 November 2007, the red bloc had 81 seats of the 175 seats (excluding the four seats elected by Greenland and the Faroe Islands), while the blue bloc had 94 seats. In the new election, the red bloc has 89 seats and the blue bloc has 86 seats.

Election 2011 2007

Red bloc 89 81

Social Democrats * 44 45

Socialist People’s Party * 16 23

Social Liberals * 17 9

Red/Greens § 12 4

Blue bloc 86 94

Liberals (Venstre) * 47 46

Conservative People’s Party * 8 18

Danish People’s Party § 22 25

Liberal Alliance (New Alliance) § 9 5

* Coalition partners

§ Parliamentary supporters

The Liberals thus cemented their position as Denmark’s largest party, just ahead of the Social Democrats.

The loss of seats for the Conservative People’s Party was a result of criticism of the party’s former leader and minister of foreign affairs, and of the new leader’s bland profile; and the loss of seats for the Danish People’s Party resulted from popular dissatisfaction of the party’s continued efforts to introduce even tougher regulations for immigrants and its launch of a strengthened border controls.

The loss of seats for the Social Democrats and the Socialist People’s Party resulted from their efforts over the past two years to work together in a coalition government – many Socialist People’s Party voters saw them moving too close to the political centre, and they voted for the ultra-leftist Red/Greens (actually and originally a mixture of Communists, Leninists/Marxists and workers’ party politicians), which tripled in size.

The gains of the centrist Social Liberals are seen as supporting the party’s politics of having a balanced financial and economic policy combined with a social conscience. The Social Liberals also made clear before and during the electioneering that they would support Helle Thorning-Schmidt as prime minister.

During 14 days of discussions between the three coalition partners, the new government aims at being a government for the whole of Denmark.

It wants political collaboration across the centre, rather than stiff bloc policies.

The government will introduce a tax reform, cutting income taxes; it will kick-start the economy and hold discussions between the government, employers and employees to generate growth and jobs; and it will introduce initiatives towards a green economy, by promoting sustainable energy sources, better public transport and supporting green-economy businesses.

The coalition will develop the education system to ensure a better level of education generally, to meet the needs of an open economy that must compete on knowledge. It will introduce better immigration and integration policies. And it will strengthen Denmark’s participation in EU, including referendums on the country’s opt-outs covering defence and judicial collaboration.

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