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Election 2015: All you need to know on the big day

DANISH NEWS - Here is the low-down on the Danish election

Denmark heads to the polls tomorrow to elect 179 members of the Folketing, the country’s parliament. According to Seven59, it will be the country’s first summer election in 95 years, and the first June vote since 1903.

Former cabinet minister Jacob Buksti provided a comprehensive and entertaining overview of the Danish parliamentary system for diplomats at the University Post / Seven59 Election Forum at the University of Copenhagen, Monday. For those who missed it here’s everything you need to know about tomorrow’s election.

The Danish parliament sits in Christiansborg Palace, also known as Borgen, which in Danish means ”the castle”.

Denmark’s voting system

Denmark has had a unicameral (single-chamber) parliament since 1953. (Prior to that the Folketing was the lower house of a bicameral parliament. This was amended following a constitutional referendum.) The parliament has 179 members: 175 are elected in Denmark, two in the Faroe Island and two in Greenland.

The country is divided into 10 multi-member constituencies (which in turn are divided into districts). Each constituency is assigned a set number of seats. A total of 135 seats are distributed in proportion to the votes in each constituency.

The other 40 seats are supplementary, and allotted to balance any difference between district-level results and the nationwide vote share. This is meant to ensure that the number of seats each party secures matches as closely as possible each party’s vote share, in accordance with Denmark’s constitution which requires not only regional representation but ”equal representation of the various opinions of the electorate”.

Simply put, if a party wins 20 pct. of the vote it should have about 20 pct. of the seats in parliament.

There is a 2 pct. threshold to enter parliament (unless a party wins a constituency seat, in which case it would enter parliament even if it hasn’t met the threshold. This is unlikely in practice as winning a constituency seat would most probably mean that a party has won more than 2% of the vote nationally).

The threshold is low compared with most other countries. Germany, for example, has a 5 pct. threshold, Sweden 4 pct. and Turkey 10 pct.

The political parties

Denmark’s voting system makes it near impossible for a single party to win an outright majority. No party has won one since 1903. This means that governments in Denmark tend to be coalitions, often even minority alliances with parliamentary support from other parties. The constitution allows for a government to rule without winning a vote of confidence, as long as it doesn’t lose a no-confidence vote.

Denmark has a lot of political parties which, broadly speaking, can be divided into two main blocs: a red bloc on the left of the political spectrum, and a blue bloc to the right of centre.

The main parties in the red bloc are:
The Social Democrats (A), led by the incumbent prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
The Social Liberals (B). Leader: Morten Østergaard.
The left wing Socialist People’s party (F). Leader: Pia Olsen Dyhr.
The far-left Red-Green Alliance (Ø).
The Alternative (Å), a green party founded in 2013.

And in the blue bloc:
The centre-right Venstre (V), currently the main opposition party. Led by Lars Løkke Rasmussen.
The right wing Danish People’s party (O). Leader: Kristian Thulesen Dahl.
The rightist, business friendly Liberal Alliance (I). Leader: Anders Samuelsen.
The Conservative People’s Party (C). Leader: Søren Pape Poulsen.
The Christian Democrats (K). Leader: Stig Grenov.

The 2011 election

At the last election, Venstre won the most votes (26.7%) and seats (47). However, the incumbent centre-right coalition lost power to the centre-left because the red bloc emerged as the larger of the two groups in parliament. It won 50.2 pct. of the Danish vote, which translated into 89 seats against the blue bloc’s 86.

Including seats from the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the final tally for the parties supporting the Social Democrat leader Thorning-Schmidt was 92 seats, while the parties backing the outgoing PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen secured 87.

Thorning-Schmidt went on to form a minority coalition with the Social Liberal party and the Socialist People’s party and became Denmark’s first female prime minister.

At the more recent EU election in 2014, the Danish People’s Party won the most MEPs, followed by the Social Democrats and Venstre.

The Danish electorate is highly engaged

Denmark has one of the highest levels of voter turnout in the world. The proportion of the electorate who voted was 87.7 pct. in 2011, 86.6 pct. in 2007, 84.5 pct. in 2005 and 87.2 pct. in 2001.

The candidates

There are 799 candidates standing in this election of whom 31 pct. are women and 69 pct. are men. Of the current group of MPs, 38 pct. are women. Among EU members, only Sweden, Finland, Spain and Belgium have more women in parliament.

If the seat distribution is as tight as the polls suggest, the four seats in Greenland and the Faroe Islands could prove decisive.

Polling stations open at 9am and close at 8pm. Exit polls are published after voting closes.

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