Denmark/Government

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Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. Queen Margrethe II has largely ceremonial functions; probably her most significant formal power lies in her right to appoint the prime minister and cabinet ministers, who are responsible for administration of the government. However, she must consult with parliamentary leaders to determine the public's will, since the cabinet may be dismissed by a vote of no confidence in the Folketing (parliament). Cabinet members are occasionally recruited from outside the Folketing.

The 1953 constitution established a unicameral Folketing of not more than 179 members, of whom two are elected from the Faroe Islands and two from Greenland. Elections are held at least every four years, but the prime minister can dissolve the Folketing at any time and call for new elections. Folketing members are elected by a complicated system of proportional representation; any party receiving at least 2% of the total national vote receives representation. The result is a multiplicity of parties (10 currently in parliament), none of which holds a majority. Electorate participation normally is more than 85%.

The judicial branch consists of about 100 local courts, two high courts, several special courts (e.g., arbitration and maritime), and a supreme court of 15 judges appointed by the crown on the government's recommendation.

Denmark is divided into 14 counties (Amter) and 275 municipalities (Kommuner). The chief official of the Amt, the county mayor (Amtsborg-mester), is elected by the county council from among its members, according to the municipal reform of 1970. The cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksborg function as both counties and municipalities.

The Faroe Islands and Greenland enjoy home rule, with the Danish Government represented locally by high commissioners. These home-rule governments are responsible for most domestic affairs, with foreign relations, monetary affairs, and defense falling to the Danish Government.

Political conditions
Political life in Denmark is orderly and democratic. Political changes occur gradually through a process of consensus, and political methods and attitudes are generally moderate.

The Social Democratic Party, historically identified with a well-organized labor movement but today appealing more broadly to the middle class, has held power either alone or in coalition for most of the postwar period except from 1982 to 1993. Since then, Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and his Social Democratic Party have led minority coalition governments, after December 1996 with the centrist Radickales only. After the March 1998 election, the SDP-Radikales coalition controls 70 of 179 seats in the Folketing.

The vulnerability implicit in a minority coalition has been evidenced in recent coalition failure to achieve consensus on issues such as extensive labor, tax, and welfare reforms. Consensus decision-making is the most prominent feature of Danish politics. It often allows the small centrist parties to play a larger role than their size suggests. Although the centrist Radikale party sometimes shows traces of its pacifist past, particularly on defense spending, most major legislation is passed by sizeable majorities.

Since the 1988 elections, which led to a domestic truce on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and security questions, Denmark's role in the European Union (EU) has come to be a key political issue. Denmark emerged from two referendums (June 2, 1992, and May 18, 1993) with four important exemptions (or "opt-outs") to the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union: common defense, common currency, EU citizenship, and certain aspects of legal cooperation, including law enforcement. However, the Amsterdam Treaty was approved in a referendum May 28, 1998, by a 55% majority.

Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Denmark
conventional short form: Denmark
local long form: Kongeriget Danmark
local short form: Danmark

Data code: DA

Government type: constitutional monarchy

Capital: Copenhagen

Administrative divisions: metropolitan Denmark - 14 counties (amter, singular - amt) and 2 kommunes*; Arhus, Bornholm, Frederiksberg*, Frederiksborg, Fyn, Kobenhavn, Kobenhavns*, Nordjylland, Ribe, Ringkobing, Roskilde, Sonderjylland, Storstrom, Vejle, Vestsjalland, Viborg
note: in addition there are 275 local kommunes not considered first-order administrative units; see separate entries for the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which are part of the Kingdom of Denmark and are self-governing administrative divisions

Independence: first organized as a unified state in 10th century; in 1849 became a constitutional monarchy

National holiday: Birthday of the Queen, 16 April (1940)

Constitution: 1849 was the original constitution; there was a major overhaul 5 June 1953, allowing for a unicameral legislature and a female chief of state

Legal system: civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen MARGRETHE II (since 14 January 1972); Heir Apparent Crown Prince FREDERIK, elder son of the monarch (born 26 May 1968)
head of government: Prime Minister Poul Nyrup RASMUSSEN (since 25 January 1993)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the monarch
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Folketing (179 seats; members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 11 March 1998 (next to be held NA 2002)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - progovernment parties: Social Democratic Party 65, Socialist People's Party 13, Radical Liberal Party 7, Unity Party 5; opposition: Liberal Party 43, Conservative Party 17, Danish People's Party 13, Center Democratic Party 8, Christian People's Party 4, Progress Party 4

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges are appointed by the monarch for life

Political parties and leaders: Center Democratic Party [Mimi JAKOBSEN]; Christian People's Party [Jann SJURSEN];Conservative People's Party [Bendt BENDTSEN]; Danish People's Party [Pia KJAERSGAARD]; Liberal Party [Anders Fogh RASMUSSEN]; Progress Party [Aage BRUSGAARD]; Radical Liberal Party [Marianne JELVED]; Social Democratic Party [Poul Nyrup RASMUSSEN]; Social Liberal Party [Johannes LEBECH]; Socialist People's Party [Holger K. NIELSEN]; Unity Party [no leader]

International organization participation: AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EIB, ESA, EU, FAO, G-9, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NATO, NC, NEA, NIB, NSG, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOGIP, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNOMIG, UNTAET, UNTSO, UPU, WEU (observer), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Knud-Erik TYGESEN
chancery: 3200 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-4300
FAX: [1] (202) 328-1470
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Edward E. ELSON
embassy: Dag Hammarskjolds Alle 24, 2100 Copenhagen
mailing address: PSC 73, APO AE 09716
telephone: [45] 35 55 31 44
FAX: [45] 35 43 02 23

Flag description: red with a white cross that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side, and that design element of the Dannebrog (Danish flag) was subsequently adopted by the other Nordic countries of Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden