Denmark is a unitary state, the territory of which is divided into 14 administrative units, counties. These counties are as follows: Aarhus, Bornholm, Frederiksborg, Fyn, Kobenhavn, Nordjylland, Ribe, Ringkobing, Roskilde, Sonderjylland, Storstrom, Vejle, Vestsjalland and Viborg.
Denmark has existed as a unitary state since the 10th century.
The first expression of democracy in Denmark can be considered the Constitutional Act, which was verified in 1849. The act is the guarantee for such human rights, as the freedom of expression and right to assembly. This could be considered the foundation of the Danish democracy, which is praised as a near-to-perfect system.
The Constitution of the State of Denmark was accepted on June 5, 1953. The Denmark government has been in the form of constitutional parliamentary monarchy since 1849 (the first Danish Constitution).
A political mode is democratic. The head of the state is the king or the queen. According to the Law accepted on March 27, 1953 the crown is descended by male’s and female’s lines. The constitution assigns the king the higher authority in government.
The King/Queen – the Head of the State
The king or the queen appoints and dismisses members of the government and the higher officials, opens parliamentary sessions, and has the right to dismiss the parliament.
The responsibilities of the king also include confirming laws and temporary acts during session breaks.
The king is the supreme commander in chief, solves foreign policy questions (though in reality the king is not authorized to denounce an international contract, apply force against a foreign state etc. without the consent of the parliament). Instead, he possesses the amnesty and pardon rights.
All certificates and documents signed by the king must be ratified by the prime minister or the corresponding minister who bears the responsibility at that time. So just like in other constitutional monarchies, although the king is formally in the authority of governing the state, serious business cannot be done without the consent of the parliament and the prime minister.
The current monarch of the Danish Kingdom is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. The crown prince is Prince Frederik of Denmark.
The Parliament of Denmark
The Danish parliament carries out legislature together with the king. It is a unicameral body, the structure of which includes 179 MPs, 175 out of which represent Denmark, while the Faroe Islands and Greenland have per two representatives.
Organizing parliamentary elections every four years is the responsibility of the prime minister.
MPs are selected for a period of 4 years by direct elections through the system of proportional representation. Selective reforms of 1978 have lowered the age qualification from 20 to 18 years. On the 12th day after elections the parliament gathers to hold the first session. The first session is opened by another election, this time MPs elect the presidium, who will supervise the work and sessions of the parliament, its permanent and temporary commissions.
Parliament sessions are open for everyone, however, the chairman or the MPs can request closed sessions as well.
The parliament possesses rather crucial powers: it is responsible for passing laws, solving financial issues (taxes are raised by its permission, agreements on the state loans are signed), supervising the work of the government, handling issues concerning the foreign policy of the state, forming armed forces, verifying interstate agreements, and so on.
Bills, which are submitted for consideration by the government or MPs, normally pass three readings. If the MPs do not manage to discuss a bill before the termination of parliamentary session, it is considered to be rejected. The approved bills must be signed by the king or (if it is demanded by not less than 1/3 MPs) a referendum. Amendments to the Constitution need obligatory approval by a referendum.
The government – the council of Ministers – also enjoys important privileges. Interestingly, it sometimes carries out the majority of royal functions. The Denmark government is comprised of the prime minister and ministers.
According to §14 of the Danish Constitution, members of the government are to be appointed by the king.
The reality differs from theory just a bit. In practice the party leader of the parliamentary majority who then forms the government becomes the Prime minister. That is to say, the real head of the state is not the king, but the prime minister.
The powers of the king are only formal, to follow the royal traditions of Denmark.
There have been three parties represented in the parliament since 2011. These parties are the Social Democrats, Social Liberals and Socialist People’s Party. The current prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is the head of the Social Democrats party.
From the point of view of party representation, Denmark exhibits an example of democracy. There has never been a party holding the majority seats of the Parliament since 1909. The seats are always distributed to more than two parties.
The ministerial council possesses legislative and executive powers. It suggests a big number of bills and, if being supported by the parliamentary majority, passes it. Its discussion can be halted in cases noted in the Constitution. The Ministerial council can independently pass “special promptness” time laws, which then must be approved by parliament.
The government also possesses certain rights concerning the parliament: ministers can be present and participate in the sessions of the parliament. The prime minister has the right to demand the convocation of emergency session.
The ministerial council is authorized to supervise over the ministries and departments, liquidate the old and create new departments, higher officials can be transferred to other positions without government’s consent.
The Denmark government actively participates in the international life of the state: signs intergovernmental contracts with foreign states and appoints (with the formal consent of the king) diplomatic representatives of the state.
To ensure the limits of the powers in the hands of the government, the Constitution establishes a parliamentarian principle: all structures of the government or separate ministers are to resign, if the parliament expresses a vote of no confidence.
If the vote of no confidence is presented against the prime minister, the entire government is to resign, as it was initially formed by the prime minister.
Charges concerning official duties of the minister can be presented only by the parliament. These charges are considered by a special court, which consists of judges of the Supreme Court and the people who have been selected by parliament and are not in positions of MPs at that time.
This way both the parliament and the government have the tools to supervise each other, which is one of the main conditions of democracy.
- Unification of the Kingdom of Denmark – 10th century
- Territory division – 14 administrative units: Arhus, Bornholm, Frederiksborg, Fyn, Kobenhavn, Nordjylland, Ribe, Ringkobing, Roskilde, Sonderjylland, Storstrom, Vejle, Vestsjalland, Viborg.
- First democratic act – the Constitutional Act (1849)
- Government – constitutional parliamentary monarchy since 1849
- Constitution – June 5, 1853
- Head of the state – the king/ the queen
- Responsibilities of the king/queen – appoints and dismisses members of the government, opens parliamentary sessions, dismisses the parliament, etc.
- Responsibilities of the parliament – passes laws, solves financial issues, supervises the work of the government, handles issues concerning the foreign policy of the state, forms armed forces, verifying interstate agreements, etc.
- Responsibilities of the government – signs intergovernmental contracts with foreign states, appoints, diplomatic representatives of the state, etc.
- Responsibilities of the prime minister – forms the government, ratifies documents, organizes parliamentary elections every 4 years, etc.
- Parliamentary elections – proportional representation, every 4 years
- MPs – 179 in number, out of which 175 from Denmark, 2 from Faroe Islands, 2 from Greenland
- Political parties – Social Democrats, Social Liberals, Socialist People’s Party
- Current prime minister – Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Social Democrats party)