Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with an almost unbroken link of monarchs for more than 1,000 years (except for an interregnum of eight years from 1332 to 1340). The current monarch, Queen Margaret II, has largely ceremonial functions; perhaps her most significant formal power lies in her right to appoint the prime minister (Statsminister) and the cabinet of Denmark, 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, the Danish parliament. Cabinet members are occasionally recruited from outside the Folketing.
Between 1849 and 1953, the Folketing was a house of a bicameral Rigsdag , the other house being the Landsting , which was indirectly elected. However, 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 (seven currently in parliament), the largest of which received 29% of the votes (as of 2005). Electorate participation lies normally above 85%.
Denmark is divided into 14 counties, known as amter, and 275 municipalities, known as kommuner. The chief official of the amt, the county mayor (amtsborgmester), is elected by the county council from among its members, according to the municipal reform of 1970. The city of Copenhagen and the enclosed town of Frederiksberg function as both counties and municipalities.
The Faroe Islands and Greenland enjoy home rule, with the Danish Government represented locally by a high commissioner (rigsombudsmand). These home-rule governments are responsible for most domestic affairs, with foreign relations, monetary affairs, and defence falling to the Danish Government.
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 Democrats, historically identified with a well-organized labor movement but today appealing more broadly to the middle class, has held power either alone in minority cabinets or as dominant party in coalition cabinets for most of the postwar period. 1982 to 1993, and since the 2001 election Denmark has been governed by liberal-conservative coalitions – currently led by Anders Fogh Rasmussen as Prime Minister.
The vulnerability implicit in a minority coalition has been evidenced in recent coalition failure to achieve consensus on issues such as extensive reforms on matters of labor market, taxation, and the welfare system. 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.
Political Parties and Leaders
These are all of the political parties that are represented in the Folketing as of the 2005 election. The parties are listed in decending order by percentage of votes received.