Social Democrats (Denmark)

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Social Democrats
Leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Founded 1871 (1871)
Headquarters Danasvej 7
1910 Frederiksberg C
Student wing Frit Forum - Social Democratic Students of Denmark
Youth wing Social Democratic Youth of Denmark (DSU)
Membership  (2011) 44,764[1]
Ideology Social democracy
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Progressive Alliance,
Socialist International
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
European Parliament group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Nordic affiliation SAMAK
Colours Red
47 / 179
European Parliament:
3 / 13
67 / 205
773 / 2,444
Election symbol
Politics of Denmark
Political parties

The Social Democrats (Danish: Socialdemokraterne or Socialdemokratiet), is a social-democratic[4][5] political party in Denmark. It has been the major coalition partner in government since 2011 parliamentary election, with party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt as Prime Minister. It is the second-largest party in the Danish parliament, the Folketing, with 47 of 179 seats.

Founded by Louis Pio in 1871, the party first entered the Folketing in 1884. By the early 20th century it had become the party with the largest representation in the Folketing, a distinction it would hold for 77 years. It first formed a government in 1924 under Thorvald Stauning, the longest-serving Danish Prime Minister of the 20th century. During Stauning's government, the Social Democrats exerted a profound influence on Danish society, laying the foundation of the Danish welfare state.

A member of the Party of European Socialists (PES), the Social Democrats have four MEPs in the European Parliament, an increase of three after the 2004 election. In March 2013 they gained an additional MEP: Emilie Turunen left the Socialist People's Party to become a Social Democrat.[6]


Since its foundation the lemma of the party has been "Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood", and these values are still described as central in the party program.[7] In the political program of the party these values are described as being consistent with a focus on solidarity with the poorest and social welfare to those who need it, with individual responsibility in relation to other members in society, and with an increased involvement in the European political project.

Political leadership[edit]

The leader of the party is Helle Thorning-Schmidt who has held the chair since 2005 when she took over from Mogens Lykketoft. Deputy leaders are Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen; and Mogens Jensen. The secretary general is Henrik Dam Kristensen, the party secretary is Lars Midtiby and the political speaker is Magnus Heunicke.[8]

In the Cabinet of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the party has ten ministers including the Prime Minister.[9]

Cabinet of Helle Thorning-Schmidt in front of Amalienborg
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Minister for Finance Bjarne Corydon
Minister for Justice Karen Hækkerup
Minister for Defence Nicolai Wammen
Minister for the City, Housing and Rural Affairs Carsten Hansen
Minister for Employment Mette Frederiksen
Minister for Children and Education Christine Antorini
Minister for Business and Growth Henrik Sass Larsen
Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Dan Jørgensen
Minister for European Affairs Nick Hækkerup

Founding and History through the 20th century[edit]

Social Democratic election poster, October 1945

The party was founded in 1871 by Louis Pio, Harald Brix og Paul Geleff.[10] The goal was to organize the emerging working class on a democratic and socialist basis. The industrialization of Denmark had begun in the mid 19th century and a period of rapid urbanization had led to an emerging class of urban workers. The social democratic movement emerged from the desire to give this group political rights and representation in parliament.

In 1876 the Party held an annual conference, adopting the first party manifesto. The stated policy was that:

"The Danish Social Democratic Labour Party works in its national form, but is convinced of the international nature of the labour movement and ready to sacrifice everything and fulfill all obligations to provide: Freedom, equality and brotherhood among all nations

In 1884 the Social Democracy party (Socialdemokratiet), as it was called then, had their first to members of parliament elected, P. Holm and Chr. Hørdum.

In the 1924 parliamentary elections the Social democratic party won the majority with 36.6 percent of the vote, and its first government was put in place with Thorvald Stauning as prime minister.[11] The same year he appointed the world's first female minister Nina Bang, nine years after women's suffrage had been given in Denmark. Stauning stayed in power until his death in 1942, his party laying the foundations for the Danish welfare state, based on a close collaboration between labor unions and the government.

In January 1933 Stauning's government entered into what was then the most extensive settlement yet in Danish politics — the Kanslergade settlement (Danish: Kanslergadeforliget) — with the liberal party Venstre.[12] The settlement, which was named after Stauning's apartment in Kanslergade in Copenhagen, included extensive agricultural subsidies and reforms of the legislation and administration in the social sector.[13] In 1935, Stauning was reelected with the famous slogan "Stauning or Chaos".[14]

Stauning's second cabinet lasted until the Nazi occupation of Denmark in 1940, when the cabinet was widened to include all political parties, called the Cabinet of Thorvald Stauning III, and the Danish government pursued a collaborative policy with the German occupiers.

Through the 1940s and until 1972 Denmark was governed by the following Social Democratic prime ministers.

Social Democrat Prime Minister[edit]

1939 – 1955: Hans Hedtoft (Prime minister 1947-55) (Alsing Andersen as de facto leader in 1941-1945)

1955 – 1960: H. C. Hansen (Prime minister 1955-60)

1960 – 1962: Viggo Kampmann (Prime minister 1960-62)

1962 – 1972: Jens Otto Krag (Prime minister 1962-68, 1971–72)(Erling Dinesen as de facto leader from October 1972 to September 1973)

1972 – 1987: Anker Jørgensen (Prime minister 1972-73, 1975–82)

Recent history[edit]

In government 1993–2001[edit]

The Social Democrats' social policy through the 1990s and continuing in the 21st century involved a significant redistribution of income and the maintenance of a large state apparatus with collectively financed core public services such as public healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Social Democrat-led coalition governments (the Cabinets of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen I, II, III, IV) implemented the system known as flexicurity (flexibility and social security), mixing strong Scandinavian unemployment benefits with deregulated employment laws, making it easier for employers to fire and rehire people in order to encourage economic growth and reduce unemployment.[15]

The Cabinets of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen maintained a parliamentary majority during the period from 1993 to 2001 by virtue of their support from the Socialist People's Party and the Red-Green Alliance.

Towards the end of the 1990s, a trade surplus of 30 billion kroner (USD 4.9 billion) turned into a deficit.[citation needed] To combat this, the government increased taxes, limiting private consumption. The 1998 initiative, which was dubbed the Whitsun Packet (Danish: Pinsepakken) from the season it was issued, was not universally popular with the electorate, which may have been a factor in the Social Democrats' defeat in the 2001 parliamentary election.

In opposition 2001–2011[edit]

After being defeated by the Liberal Party in the 2001 election, the party chairmanship went to former finance and foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft. Following another defeat in the January 2005 election, Lykketoft announced his resignation as party leader, and at an extraordinary congress on 12 March, it was decided that all members of the party would cast votes in an election of a new party leader. The two contenders for the leadership represented the two wings in the party, with Helle Thorning-Schmidt being viewed as centrist and Frank Jensen being viewed as slightly more left-wing. On 12 April 2005 Helle Thorning-Schmidt was elected as the new leader.

In government 2011–present[edit]

At the 2011 elections the Social Democrats gained 44 seats in parliament, the lowest number since 1953.[16] Nonetheless the party succeeded in establishing a minority government with the People's Socialist Party, and the Social-Liberal party.

The incumbent centre-right coalition led by the Liberal Party lost power to a centre-left coalition led by the Social Democrats making Helle Thorning-Schmidt the country's first female Prime Minister. The Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party became part of the three-party government. The new parliament convened on 4 October. The government has rolled back anti-immigration legislation enacted by the previous government,[17] and passed a tax-reform with support from the liberalist-conservative opposition.[18] The tax reform raised the top tax threshold, effectively lowering tax rates for the wealthiest citizens.[19] The aim of the tax reform has been to increase labor output to fend off a projected labor shortage within the next decades. The stated goal is to entice Danes to work more in order to compensate for the decreasing workforce, by lowering tax on wages and gradually lowering welfare payments to those outside of the labor market to increase the economic benefit of working relative to receiving welfare.[20]

Because of the government's minority status and because of its dependency on the support of the Liberal party, the government had to jettison many of the policies that the Social Democrat - Socialist Peoples party coalition had given during the campaign. Although critics have accused the government of breaking its promises, other studies argue that it has already accomplished half of its stated goals, blaming instead poor public relations strategies for its increasingly negative public image.[21]

The government has pursued a centrist compromise agenda, building several reforms with support from both sides of the parliament. This has caused friction with the supporting Red-Green Alliance, which has been kept outside of influence.[18]

Electoral performance[edit]

The Social Democrats governed Denmark for most of the 20th century, with a few intermissions, such as the Conservative-led government of Poul Schlüter in the 1980s. It continued to be Denmark's largest party until 2001 when Anders Fogh Rasmussen's liberal Venstre Party gained a landslide victory, becoming the largest party and forming a centre-right government.

Folketing election Number of votes Share of votes (%) Number of seats
1884 7,000 4.9 2
1887 8,000 3.5 1
1890 17,000 7.3 3
1892 20,000 8.9 2
1895 24,510 11.3 8
1898 31,870 14.2 12
1901 38,398 17.8 14
1903 48,117 21.0 16
1906 76,612 25.4 24
1909 93,079 29.0 24
1910 98,718 28.3 24
1913 107,365 29.6 32
1915 N/A N/A 32
1918 262,796 28.7 39
April 1920 300,345 29.2 42
July 1920 285,166 29.8 42
September 1920 389,653 32.2 48
1924 469,949 36.6 55
1926 497,106 37.2 53
1929 593,191 41.8 61
1932 660.839 42.7 62
1935 759,102 46.4 68
1939 729,619 42.9 64
1943 894,632 44.5 66
1945 671,755 32.8 48
1947 836,231 41.2 57
1950 813,224 39.6 59
April 1953 836,507 40.4 61
September 1953 894,913 41.3 74
1957 910,170 39.4 70
1960 1,023,794 42.1 76
1964 1,103,667 41.9 76
1966 1,068,911 38.2 69
1968 974,833 34.2 62
1971 1,074,777 37.3 70
1973 783,145 25.6 46
1975 913,155 29.9 53
1977 1,150,355 37.0 65
1979 1,213,456 38.3 68
1981 1,026,726 32.9 59
1984 1,062,561 31.6 56
1987 985,906 29.3 54
1988 992,682 29.8 55
1990 1,221,121 37.4 69
1994 1,150,048 34.6 62
1998 1,223,620 35.9 63
2001 1,003,023 29.1 52
2005 867,350 25.8 47
2007 881,037 25.5 45
2011 879,615 24.8 44

European Parliament[edit]

Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
 % of
Danish vote
# of
overall seats won
# of
Danish seats won
1979 382,487 21.9 (#1)
3 / 16
1984 387,098 19.4 (#3)
3 / 16
Steady 0
1989 417,076 23.3 (#1)
4 / 16
Increase 1
1994 329,202 15.8 (#3)
3 / 16
Decrease 1
1999 324,256 16.5 (#2)
3 / 16
Steady 0
2004 618,412 32.6 (#1)
5 / 14
Increase 2
2009 503,982 21.5 (#1)
4 / 13
Decrease 1
2014 435,245 19.1 (#2)
3 / 13
Decrease 1

Leaders of the Social Democrats[edit]

International affiliations[edit]

The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International between 1923 and 1940.[22] It is now a member of the Socialist International,[23] an association of socialist and social democratic parties. The Social Democrats are also a member of the Party of European Socialists, while the party's MEPs sit in the Socialists & Democrats group.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "LO's faglige politiske beretning : 2011". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "AKVA3: Valg til regions råd efter område, parti og stemmer/kandidater/køn". Statistics Denmark. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "VALGK3: Valg til kommunale råd efter område, parti og stemmer/kandidater/køn". Statistics Denmark. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  4. ^ Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Merkel, Wolfgang; Alexander Petring; Christian Henkes; Christoph Egle (2008). Social Democracy in Power: the capacity to reform. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-43820-9. 
  6. ^ "SF's Emilie Turunen og Nanna Westerby skifter også til Socialdemokraterne" (in Danish). 1 January 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "Handen Pa Hjertet". Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Ledelse og ordførere
  9. ^ "Here are Denmark’s new ministers". The Copenhagen Post. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "Socialdemokraterne - Socialdemokratiet - Det Kongelige Bibliotek". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  11. ^ 2. "Den skjulte forskel | Kristeligt Dagblad". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Skou, p. 367
  13. ^ Mørch, Søren (2002). 24 statsministre (Danish). Copenhagen: Gyldendal, p. 165. ISBN 87-02-00361-9.
  14. ^ SVENSSON, P. (1974), Support for the Danish Social Democratic Party 1924–39 — Growth and Response. Scandinavian Political Studies, 9: 127–146.
  15. ^ Volkesn, Andrea. 2004. Policy Changes of European Social Democrats 1945-98. in Giuliano Bonoli (ed.) "Social Democratic Party Policies in Contemporary Europe". Psychology Press.
  16. ^ "Socialdemokraterne - English version - Votes and seats". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  17. ^ Lee, William (6 October 2011). "Denmark's New Government Rolls Back an Anti-Immigrant Legacy |". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Government defends tax deal with opposition | The Copenhagen Post | The Danish News in English". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "PM supports call to raise top tax threshold | The Copenhagen Post | The Danish News in English". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "Helle Thorning-Schmidt: Danes must work more — Nordic Labour Journal". 6 October 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  21. ^ "Government on track but off message | The Copenhagen Post | The Danish News in English". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  22. ^ Kowalski, Werner. Geschichte der sozialistischen arbeiter-internationale: 1923 - 19. Berlin: Dt. Verl. d. Wissenschaften, 1985. p. 290
  23. ^ "Member Parties". Socialist International. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 

External links[edit]