Prime Minister of Denmark
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|Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark
Kongeriget Danmarks statsminister
Logo of the Prime Minister's Office
|Member of||Council of State
|Seat||Christiansborg, Copenhagen, Denmark|
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Formation||22 March 1848|
|First holder||Adam Wilhelm Moltke|
|Website||The Prime Minister's Office|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The Prime Minister of Denmark (Danish: statsminister; literally "Minister of State") is the head of government in the Kingdom of Denmark. Before the creation of the modern office, Denmark did not have a head of government separate from its head of state, namely the King, in whom the executive authority was vested. The Constitution of 1849 established a constitutional monarchy by limiting the powers of the Monarch and creating the office of premierminister. The inaugural holder of the office is Adam Wilhelm Moltke.
The Prime Minister presides over a cabinet that is formally appointed by the Monarch. In practice, the appointment of the Prime Minister is determined by their support in the Folketing (the national parliament). Since the beginning of the 20th century no single party has held a majority in the Folketing, so the Prime Minister must head a coalition of political parties, as well as their own party. Additionally, only four coalition governments since World War II have enjoyed a majority in the Folketing, so the coalitions (and the Prime Minister) must also gain loose support from other minor parties.
The current Prime Minister of Denmark is Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the first woman to hold the position. She leads a coalition government consisting of the Social Democrats, Socialist People's Party and the Danish Social Liberal Party with parliamentary support from the Red-Green Alliance.
From approximately 1699 to 1730, the highest ranking non-monarchial government official was titled the "Grand Chancellor" (storkansler) and from 1730 until 1848, this office was titled "Minister of State" (statsminister). These titles foreshadowed the modern office of Prime Minister, however, unlike the current office, the Grand Chancellor and State Minister were not formal heads of government. The King held executive authority as absolute ruler from 1661 until the enactment of a liberal Constitution in the early nineteenth century.
The office of Prime Minister was introduced as a part of the constitutional monarchy outlined in 1848 and signed as the Danish Constitution on 5 June 1849. The new Constitution established a parliamentary system by creating a new bicameral parliament (Rigsdagen) and a Council Presidum, headed by a Council President. The Council Presidium is regarded as the predecessor of the modern Prime Minister's Office. The first Council President was Adam Wilhelm Moltke, who came to power on 22 March 1848. Molte and his next two successors also held the title of premierminister, which translates as "prime minister".
From 1855 onwards the Prime Minister was known simply as the "Council President" (Konseilspræsident). Carl Christian Hall became the first Prime Minister/Council President to lead a political party (the National Liberal Party).
The modern Prime Minister's Office was founded on 1 January 1914, when the Council Presidum was established as a department under the Prime Minister, when it had previously existed as an informal council gathered by the Prime Minister. The title of the Prime Minister changed again in 1918 under the Premiership of Carl Theodor Zahle, becoming titled the "Minister of State" (in-line with its Scandinavian neighbours, Norway and Sweden), which it remains to this day.
By the mid-nineteenth century a strong party-system had developed, with most Prime Ministers being the leader of either Venstre (left) or Højre (right). However, by 1924 the Social Democrats had become the largest party and Højre had disappeared.
During the first years of Occupation of Denmark, the governments of Prime Ministers Vilhelm Buhl and then Erik Scavenius cooperated with the Nazi occupiers. On 29 August 1943, the Danish government resigned, refusing to grant further concessions to Nazi Germany. All government operations were assumed by the permanent secretaries of the individual departments, and this arrangement lasted until the Liberation of Denmark on 5 May 1945. Since King Christian X never accepted the resignation of the government, it existed de jure until a new cabinet was formed on 5 May 1945.
The twentieth century was dominated by Social Democratic Prime Ministers leading left-wing coalitions; Social Democratic Prime Ministers were in power nearly continuously from 1924 until 1982. The first Prime Minister from the Conservative People's Party, Poul Schlüter, came to power as the head of a broad centre-right coalition in 1982.
In November 2001 the left-wing coalition in the Folketing lost seats to the right-wing coalition led by Venstre. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, leader of Venstre, served as the Prime Minister from 2001 to April 2009. His government was a coalition consisting of Venstre and the Conservative People's Party, with parliamentary support from the national-conservative Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti). On 5 April 2009, Rasmussen resigned to become Secretary General of NATO, leaving minister of finance and vice president of Venstre Lars Løkke Rasmussen to be the Prime Minister. Following the September 2011 election the right wing lost by a small margin to the opposing left-wing coalition, led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt who on 3 October 2011 formed a new government consisting of the Social Democrats, the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party.
The Constitution of Denmark states that the Monarch, who is the head of state, has supreme authority and acts out this power through their ministers. The Monarch formally appoints and dismisses ministers, including the Prime Minister. In a sense then, the Prime Minister only has the power and authority that is given to them by the Monarch, according to the Constitution.
Although the Prime Minister is the country's leading political figure, he or she is not nearly as powerful as his or her counterparts in the rest of Europe. This is mainly because it is nearly impossible for one party to get a majority of seats in the Folketing (Parliament), so the government is always a coalition between two or more parties. No Danish party has won a majority since 1901, and for much of that time there has not even been a majority coalition. Because of his limited powers, the Prime Minister is primus inter pares (first among equals). Additionally, as a result of the weak control they have over parliament, the Prime Minister must cobble together a majority for each piece of legislation.
Although, as stated, the Monarch formally appoints all ministers of the cabinet freely, in practice Monarchs only conventionally select the Prime Minister after a leader has gathered support from a majority in the Folketing. A single party rarely has a majority in the Folketing, instead parties form alliances; usually the Social Democrats with centre-left parties, and Venstre with centre-right parties. Following elections when there is no clear leader, the Monarch will hold a "King/Queen's meeting" (kongelig undersøger) where, after a series of discussions and agreements, the leader of the largest alliance and the largest party within that alliance—usually the Social Democrats or Venstre- is appointed as Prime Minister-elect. The new Prime Minister-elect, together with the leaders of the junior parties, select ministers to form a new coalition cabinet, which is the presented to the Monarch.
The Prime Minister chairs the weekly meetings of the council of ministers and has the power to set the agenda of these meetings. The Prime Minister traditionally gathers together a government ministry known as the "Ministry of the State of Denmark" (statsministeriet) or Prime Minister's Office. Atypical of a Danish ministry it does not have any councils, boards or committees associated with it and its near sole responsibility is to act as the secretariat of the Prime Minister. There is a small department under the ministry that takes care of special legal issues not covered under other ministries, among others Greenland's and Faroe Islands relation to the Monarchy, the mass media's contact to the State, number of ministers in the government, or Queen Margrethe II legal status as a civilian.
The Prime Minister, by convention, chooses to dissolve the Folketing and call a new election (although this is formally undertaken by the Monarch), which he or she is obligated to do within four years of the previous election. In spite of this, the Prime Minister has no political say in regard to Denmark's autonomous regions, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, while the Folketing on the other hand does, as all laws passed by the Faroese and Greenlandic parliaments must be ratified by the Folketing.
There exist checks on the Prime Minister's power; the Folketing may revoke its confidence in an incumbent Prime Minister, in which case the Prime Minister must either resign along with the entire cabinet or ask the Monarch to dissolve the Folketing and call a new election. Whenever a Prime Minister resigns, dies, or is forced from office, the Monarch asks them (or, in the case of death, the next available leader in a coalition) to keep the government as a caretaker government until a successor has been elected.
|This section requires expansion with: information on salary. (September 2012)|
The government offices, including the Ministry of the State of Denmark (Statsministeriet; The Prime Minister's Office), is located inside Christiansborg Palace, along with the Folketing and the courts.
The official summer residence of the Prime Minister is Marienborg, an eighteenth century estate that was acquired by the State. It is situated on the shore of Lake Bagsværd in Kgs. Lyngby, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north of Copenhagen. It has served as an official summer residence for ten Prime Ministers since 1960. Marienborg is frequently used for governmental conferences and informal summits between the government, industry and organisations in Denmark.
List of Prime Ministers
Living former Prime Ministers
- Statsministeriet (The Prime Minister's Office) - History. Access date: 1 September 2012
- "Section 12". Constitution of Denmark. ICL. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- "Section 14". Constitution of Denmark. ICL. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Strom, Kaare; Muller, Wolfgang C.; Bergman, Torbjorn, eds. (2006). Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
Media related to Prime ministers of Denmark at Wikimedia Commons
- The Prime Minister's Office (Statsministeriet)
- Official Denmark Constitution, from the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.