The landslide election of 1973 could have been the beginning of the end for the Danish party system established with the introduction of parliamentary democracy. “Crisis” was written all over it. However, almost fifty years later, there is a continuity within the Danish party system that is possibly unexpected in light of the drastic changes in 1973. The core of the Danish party system remains the same. New parties have been established; some have been successful additions, some have waned. New issues have been added to the political agenda, but the competition for government power between a left-wing and a right-wing bloc remains the structuring principle of the Danish party system. Party organizations have lost traditional party membership but thrive as organizations on public financing and professionalization. Continuity and change characterize the Danish party system since the landslide election; also in the last 25 years, on which this article focuses.
The past 30 years have been an electoral fiasco for the Social Democrats in Denmark. In spite of this, they have been able to reclaim power from right-wing parties three times and have controlled the government in almost half the period. This might seem like a paradox. Yet, we argue that the Social Democrats have repeatedly made decisions that were unpopular among their current supports but increased their likelihood of becoming/remaining the governing party. In this way, the Social Democrats have been able to hold on to power, not in spite of but in part because of their electoral losses. We substantiate our argument by re-examining existing analyses of the Social Democrats and re-analyzing data from the Danish National Election Study as well as from public opinion polls.
In 2020, the Liberal Party of Denmark (Venstre) celebrated its 150-year jubilee. After 2001, the party dominated government formation and occasionally became the largest party in the electorate after dwindling support until the 1980s. The party managed to transform itself from a class-based party with strong support from rural areas to a catchall centre-right party. The article uses Harmel and Janda’s (1994) party change perspective to study the case of the Liberal Party, in particular since the 1980s. It notes that the party made ideological changes, first in a neo-liberal, and later in a more centrist direction, both times with inspiration from abroad. Leadership changes and internal trouble in the Conservative Party also catalyzed changes. The Liberal Party did not change its organization until after it had gained voters and office, and the relative strength of its party organization did not prevent changes, unlike what the theory would expect. Instead, it seems to have provided the party with more resources and time to make a change. The article discusses the party’s influence on public policies and its general situation in 2020, having lost the general election of 2019, with a new party leader, and fewer party members.
The Danish People’s Party is the successful splinter party of the Progress Party created by Pia Kjærsgaard and collaborators in 1996. Traditional party membership, public financing, and a high degree of centralization and party discipline characterize the party organization, while their political program emphasizes less immigration and integration, more law and order, and welfare chauvinism. Their first 25 years have been successful. Their electoral success has affected government formation and policies. They have provided the parliamentary base for center-right governments and gained political concessions, particularly in the immigration and integration field. While aiming to become an influential party, they did not enter into government when they became the largest party right of centre in 2015. Since then their electoral support has waned.
The Red-Green Alliance (RGA) rose from the ashes of three dying communist parties when the Berlin wall fell in 1989, and has enjoyed remarkable success. RGA has become an established, stable part of the far left in the Danish Folketing. What explains this success? RGA can be described as a roaring, but harmless lion in the sense that RGA asks more questions to the minister than any other party in the Danish parliament; mainly about social welfare, the environment, and the EU. Yet, this pressure on the government is not converted into policy influence in the annual budget when it would be most likely, namely during Social Democratic cabinets. Through its criticism (but not its policy influence), RGA has been able to challenge the executive and maintain a pure, uncompromising ideological stance during a time characterized by welfare cuts, immigrant restrictions, and a rising climate crisis. A growing group of voters has been looking for this type of party.
The article starts out by discussing bloc politics in the Danish parliament, the Folketing, from 1973 until today. It investigates the parties’ legislative voting behavior in 2007-2017 and asks how differently parties are positioned on new and old politics and whether there is a different degree of bloc politics on these two issue areas. The article shows that no party from one block has moved in between parties from the other block on new or old politics. However, a one-dimensional perspective is challenged – at times substantially – by varying party positions within the two blocks. An analysis of the degree of bloc politics on new and old politics shows that there is no substantial difference in the degree of bloc politics on the two issue areas.
Ophavsretten tilhører Politica. Materialet må ikke bruges eller distribueres i kommercielt øjemed.