was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. In the post-war
era, Denmark joined NATO, while at home a new constitution,
introduced in 1953, imposed a system of proportional representation,
which has made coalition administrations a standard feature of Danish
politics. Centre-left government led by the Social Democrats
– invariably the country’s largest party – dominated
from the 1950s until the 1980s, when, in line with the rise of the
centre-right throughout Europe, the Conservatives
were able to form a series of governments led by Poul Schulter
– the most prominent Conservative leader of his generation.
The Social Democrats, however, recovered their position at the 1993
election, under the leadership of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
and retained control at the 1998 poll, by forging an alliance with
the small Social Liberal Party.
The dominant issue in Danish politics during the 1990s was relations
with the European Union, which Denmark joined in
1973. Along with the UK, Denmark is the most ‘Eurosceptic’
nation, as became apparent when a 1992 referendum rejected Danish
acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty on the future
development of the EU.
Denmark has decided to stay out of the first wave of countries joining
the single European currency. The Government, which generally favours
membership, made another attempt to persuade the public prior to
a referendum held in September 2000 again, however, they failed.
Despite that critical defeat, the Social Democrat
government continued to enjoy broad popular support on most issues.
In November 2001, it decided – unwisely – to try and
exploit this by calling a snap election. After a closely fought
campaign, which was dominated by the issue of immigration policy,
the 8 year-old Social Democrat government was supplanted by a Liberal/Conservative
coalition led by Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Immigration has become a major political factor in Europe during
the last few years and this has fuelled the growing popularity of
extreme right-wing parties throughout the continent and Denmark
is no exception. Despite lacking a seat in government, the right-wing
anti-immigration Danish People’s Party and
its leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, have already exercised considerable
influence over government policy during the last 2 years.
Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. The constitutional charter
of 1953 gives the hereditary monarch and the unicameral Parliament
(Folketing) legislative power. The monarch has no personal political
power. Members are elected to parliament by proportional representation.