Contemporary History of Denmark

The contemporary history of Denmark is the story from around 1980 until today.

Political and economic development in the 1980s

In the 1970s, there were parliamentary elections every other year, but none of them created stable conditions and vigorous governments. The economic crisis continued, with a large and rising unemployment rate, rising deficits on the balance of payments with abroad and on the state budget, and a heavy foreign debt. Anker Jørgensen ‘s minority governments were pushed from two sides. From the right, the Progress Party emerged as Denmark’s second largest party in the election in 1977. At the same time, the Social Democracy had to work together in the center to implement its economic redevelopment plan. Thus Jørgensen pushed not only the parties to the left, but also the trade union movement. Unemployment reached 225,000 in 1982. Both in 1979 and 1982 became the crowndevalued by 3%, and from 1979 to 1981 there were wage and price hikes.

In 1982, Jorgensen’s minority government resigned. Denmark instead got a bourgeois government of 4 parties, the “four-leaf clover government”. Prime Minister Poul Schlüter was the first Conservative head of government in Denmark since the introduction of parliamentarism. This government, too, had to struggle with tactical maneuvers and compromises in order to implement its economic policies. Some signs of recovery in the economy emerged in the 1980s, despite rising unemployment and high labor market turmoil. Unemployment fell from over ten per cent in 1983 to less than eight per cent in 1988, but then rose again. Exports, on the other hand, rose sharply from the mid-1980s, and the balance of payments improved. inflationwas also brought under control. Disagreement over a new tax reform was a trigger for the new election in 1990. The government wanted tax cuts for middle and higher incomes as part of the adjustment to the EC internal market, but the opposition said no. After the election, the tax reform was changed, and a general reduction in income tax was made in 1991. Under the new government Nyrup Rasmussen, in 1994 another new tax reform was adopted.

Politically, Denmark under Schlüter experienced an almost continuous parliamentary crisis. There were parliamentary elections in both 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1990, as well as referendums on the EC / EU in 1986 and 1992. The government coalition declined in each election, and in 1988 the four-clover government was replaced by a “three-clover government” in which the Conservatives and the Left cooperated with Radical Left instead of with the Center Democrats and Christian People’s Party. After the 1990 election, Radical withdrew, but Schlüter continued with a two-party government despite his fourth election defeat in a row.

Tamil issue

When Schlüter resigned in 1993, he was the longest reigning Danish Prime Minister since Torvald Stauning. In 1990 he experienced that Denmark, for the first time in 25 years, had a surplus on the balance of payments abroad. Although unemployment was still rising, there was a clear improvement in the economy. What ultimately struck Schlüter was the so-called Tamil case, a complicated political case that revolved around the government’s duty of information vis-à-vis the Parliament. The case took place until 1989, when the Ministry of Justice was criticized for unusually lengthy case processing and in part the closure of cases concerning family reunification of Tamil refugees in Denmark. At the same time, it was known that the former Minister of Justice, and now President (President) of the Parliament, Erik Ninn-Hansen, had assured the Parliament that the condition of the Tamils ​​in Sri Lanka was improving, despite the fact that the government had just been told the opposite. After this, Ninn-Hansen had to step down as Chairman of the Parliament.

However, the disclosures in the case continued. A comprehensive report on the Tamil case was presented in 1993. It concluded that Ninn-Hansen was responsible for an illegal stoppage of family reunions for Tamils ​​in the years 1987-1989. He was further criticized for leading the Folketing to the light of misleading, misleading and incorrect information. The later Minister of Justice HP Clausen and the Prime Minister himself were also criticized for providing misleading and incorrect information to the Parliament. Schlüter then withdrew. Ninn-Hansen was brought to trial, the first case in Denmark since 1910. In 1995, he was given a suspended prison sentence in the case.

The government’s departure opened the way for the Social Democrats. After the good election results in 1990, there was dissatisfaction within the Social Democrats that no new government had been formed. The blame was laid on party leader Svend Auken, who in 1992 was thrown at an extraordinary congress. The new party leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen was regarded as a more cooperative politician among the middle parties. In 1993 he formed a square government with the Radical Left, the Center Democrats and the Christian People’s Party. The latter party walked out of the government when it was not represented in Parliament after the election in 1994. The selection resulted in general decline for the coalition, while the Left led by Uffe Ellemann-Jensen proceeded vigorously. But the coalition government continued with failing parliamentary support. In 1996, the Center Democrats also withdrew from the government, which thus became a two-party government.

History of Denmark

The 1998 elections

At the 1998 parliamentary elections, the government saved itself with an emergency scream. The Left consolidated its position as Denmark’s by far the second largest party, but failed to take over the government in the elections. Ellemann-Jensen resigned for that reason as party leader, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen took over. The Conservatives had halved their support over the 1994 elections and had now been marginalized in Danish politics. The Progress Party made its worst choice ever, while the voter, the new right-wing populist Danish People’s Party, moved in with over 7% of the vote and 13 seats in the Folketing under the former Frp leader Pia Kjærsgaards management. The Social Democracy strengthened its position through a transformation of the two-party government in 2000. However, the election that was printed the following year led to a civil takeover – and thus the end both of Nyrup Rasmussen’s eight-year prime ministerial term and the 77-year era with the Social Democracy as Denmark’s largest party.. The left now assumed this position, following a rise from 24% to 31.3%. The party formed government together with the Conservatives, with Anders Fogh Rasmussen as prime minister and with the Danish People’s Party – which had now become the third largest – as a support party in the parliament. The Center Democrats and the Progressive Party fell out of parliament in the 2001 elections.

Weakened confidence in politicians

Confidence in Danish politics was weakened in the 1990s. The Tamil case and other revelations contributed to this. Another contribution was the disclosures of accounting fraud in the municipality of Farum outside Copenhagen in 2002. In addition, a number of personal scandals have shaken the political environment, and there have been significant internal disputes in several parties, including in the Social Democracy and the Central Democrats on government cooperation.. In the late 1990s, conservative party leaders changed three times in the same number of years, reflecting a controversy over political courses and people, as well as a sustained electoral run. The Progress Party was split both in 1990, when Mogens Glistrupwas excluded, and in 1995, when several key party members broke out and formed the Danish People’s Party – which excluded 19 members in 1999. In the public debate, the party has been accused of promoting racism.

No to euro connection

The Danish economy was noticeably improving towards the end of the 1990s, with rising employment and a low rise in prices. Economic growth slowed down again a few years into the new century. But all in all, Denmark, which chose to stand outside the euro co-operation, had a more favorable development than the euro zone average. Asylum and immigration policy emerged as a main theme in Danish politics during the 1990s, a period when failures in integration policy received a lot of attention. The policy was turned in a clearly more restrictive direction, and the Danish People’s Party was considered to have a driving role. The wing parties on both sides also channeled, with different arguments, much of the skepticism to the EU. In a 2000 referendum, 47% said yes and 53% no to the Danish euro connection. The EU decision to accept 10 new members was made at the Copenhagen summit in December 2002, which ended the period of Danish presidency. The Government, with the support of the other established parties, was committed to strengthening Denmark’s position in the Union.

Iraq war

The Danish government placed itself among the most loyal supporters of the United States in the context of the Iraq war, and had to endure criticism – from opposition as well as UN weapons inspector Hans Blix – for stretching the report on Iraq’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass extinction too far, thus agreeing in the war on a failing basis. Fogh Rasmussen’s support for the United States doctrine of “preventive attacks” was also discouraged within the ruling parties. But the Social Democrats also supported the decision to contribute to the British-led security force. Equally broad, the agreement was a de facto defense reform transition from military service to professional personnel, and that the defense is increasingly focused on international missions and domestic terrorism.

The 2005 elections

The Iraq question shook Danish politics on several occasions, and measurements showed declining support for the government’s line. But Iraq nevertheless became no main theme in the parliamentary elections on February 8, 2005 – where the coalition government of the Left and the Conservatives renewed their mandate, with the high-nationalist Danish People’s Party as a support party. Anders Fogh Rasmussen thus became the first Minister of the Left to achieve re-election. The downturn continued for the Social Democrats, and Mogens Lykketoft resigned as party leader. After a power struggle and a vote in the party, he was followed by 38-year-old newly elected parliamentary representative Helle Thorning-Schmidt. For the Socialist People’s Party too, the election result led to a change of leadership, while Radical Left had the biggest progress.

Later in the year, further austerity was implemented in immigration and asylum policy, through broad conciliation in the Folketing – and with Radical Left as critical opposition. Requirements for social assistance were tightened, with the aim, among other things, of getting 10,000 more immigrants to work. From now on, those who applied for permanent residence had to issue a declaration to “respect basic Danish values”, specified in 17 points, including abstaining from forced marriage and circumcision. An overall goal was to prevent ghetto formation and to fight crime among immigrant youth.

Cartoon controversy

To mark that freedom of speech outweighs an Islamic image ban, Denmark’s largest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, invited the country’s newspaper signers to give their interpretation of the Prophet Muhammad. Twelve drawings were printed in the autumn of 2005 – and within a few months the country was in its greatest foreign policy crisis since World War II.. There were riots with the flag burning of the Danish flag and violent attacks on Danish embassies in a number of places in the Muslim world, and with several terrorist attacks in subsequent years. Cartoonists and editors received death threats, and exports to these countries got a crack. However, the EU made it clear that a trade boycott would be considered a boycott of the entire Union. The conflicts between Islamic communities and the larger community have also intensified in Denmark, with demonstrations degenerating into street fights. The government had to endure criticism for a poor handling of the conflict around the Muhammad cartoons, while a group of Imams came in the spotlight for spreading false information and inciting hatred.

Pension and management reforms

A comprehensive welfare policy settlement in the Folketing in the spring of 2006 included, among other things, increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 years, and the age limit for “early retirement”, corresponding to AFP, from 60 to 62 years – to keep more people in work and strengthen the financial foundation of the welfare schemes. An administrative reform from 1 January 2007 reduced the number of municipalities from 271 to 98, while the 14 counties (counties) were replaced by five regions; after this no municipality has less than 20 000 inhabitants.

Change of prime minister and new political parties

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote a short election notice in November 2007, just two years after the last election – and obtained by a slim margin his third victory in a row. The Left maintained its position as the largest party in the Folketing, despite some decline. For the government partner The Conservative and support party The Danish People’s Party gave the election close to the status quo. The Social Democrats were unsuccessful in their recovery attempt, and the party now had to go all the way back to 1909 to find an equally weak election result, without Helle Thorning-Schmidt’sposition as party leader and future prime ministerial candidate was contested. Under her leadership, the Danish Social Democratic Party is considered to still have a downtown turnaround and adheres more closely to the bourgeois government’s immigration policy, its US-loyal course and its tax cuts. This turn of events helped explain that the Socialist People’s Party almost doubled its support and mandate. Later, SF leader Villy Søvndal ‘s powerful settlement with Islamic fundamentalism seems to have reinforced the upswing. Radical Left was, on the other hand, halved at the election, but continued its cooperation with the Social Democrats in the Parliament.

The party flora gained growth in 2007 with the formation of the New Alliance, which had as its foremost objective to push the government towards a more liberal immigration policy and away from the Danish People’s Party. The party and its leader Naser Khader rode a startlingly high popularity wave towards the election, but ended just above the barricade; The following year, Denmark’s fastest party failure was a fact. The Center Democrats were also formally disbanded in 2008, 34 years after Erhard Jakobsen broke out of the Social Democrats.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen resigned as prime minister in 2009, when he was appointed new NATO Secretary General. He was followed by Finance Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who retained most of the ministers. The change was primarily a change of prime minister; Fogh Rasmussen experienced declining popularity and management wear towards the end of his term.

The financial crisis in 2008-2009

In the new century, the Danish economy outperformed the euro area average, and in 2007 was voted the most dynamic in the EU, with the relatively largest budget surplus. During the prolonged upswing, however, the economic disparities had increased in the population. Unemployment was at a record low, but inflation was on the rise when the financial crisis hit, with a steep fall in exports, business investment and private consumption. In August 2008, the first bank went bankrupt, Roskilde Bank, and was taken over by the central bank. In the wake of the crisis, a prolonged newspaper war also culminated in the fact that the major free newspapers – which formed the front line – were closed down on a continuous basis, while the established daily press had to note new, and sometimes dramatic, falls in circulation.

In the autumn of 2009, the economic indicators showed that Denmark was more severely affected by the financial crisis than initially anticipated, but the country retained its position in the top tier within the EU. A registered unemployment rate of 3.7% represented only a third of the EU average, but more than doubled from the previous year. Investments, exports, private consumption and housing construction pointed downwards. Despite certain signs of a late fall harvest, a decline in the Danish economy (negative growth) of 2009 was projected at 2.4%.

The 2009 elections

The economy became one of the themes in the municipal elections in November 2009, where the two wing parties Socialist People’s Party and the Danish People’s Party made the greatest progress, to 14.5 and 8.1%. For SF, the result was a doubling from the previous local elections, under party leader Villy Søvndal’s new line of sharper Islam criticism and demands for a tighter immigration policy. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s Left declined 2.7%, to 24.8%. The largest decline was the Social Democrats, 3.7% to 30.7% and thus made their weakest local elections since the war, but was still by far the largest nationwide. The largest “mayor’s party”, by far, could also take over the position in a number of new municipalities, through the collaboration with SF which was under development – following the Norwegian red-green pattern and with the same aim.

After the 2009 elections, Denmark’s four largest cities had social democratic rule. In Copenhagen and many other municipalities, the new majority was formed under strong political turbulence, with breaches of alliances and parties switching sides. This local election was the first after the major reform in 2007, where the number of municipalities was reduced to one-third. Local lists and regional parties seemed to have lost track of the reform, while the election winners SF and DF probably benefited from being able to list for the first time in all the country’s municipalities.


Greenland remains part of the Danish kingdom, but from June 21, 2010, the island gained increased autonomy, in exchange for the 30-year-old home rule system. A unified bill was passed in 2008 after a long political tug of war between the Copenhagen government and the Home Rule in Nuuk. The guidelines that are otherwise laid down include, among other things, that future oil revenues should be shared equally between Denmark and Greenland.