A DECADE in the political wilderness for Denmark’s left, and a steady series of election losses for Europe’s left-wing parties, ended yesterday when Helle Thorning-Schmidt led her Social Democrats to a narrow victory over Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s liberal-conservative administration. A jubilant Ms Thorning-Schmidt will take office as Denmark’s first female prime minister.
EB reader Benno Hansen gives us some background.
On Thursday the 15th of September 2011 the Danish right wing government of the past decade lost its slim majority. The former opposition is currently negotiating the alliance of a new government which looks like it will be more green than red.
From 2001 and until recently, Denmark was run by a liberal-conservative government supported by a far right nationalist party. Although holding a narrow majority of seats in parliament, this constellation pulled through a constant flow of tax breaks and privatizations made possible by feeding the Danish People’s Party lumps of – excuse me – xenophobic policies in turn for their votes. This dictatorship of a majority if there ever was one – more often than not, the remaining near-half of parliament was held from influence – is set to end, it appears, not to be replaced by a corresponding red block of parties.
Firstly, because the Social Democrats have vowed to end it. Traumatized by the Iraq war, in which Denmark participated on the most narrow of parliamentary majorities, they have promised to work for a change of law to require 2/3, not 50%, of the votes for such serious decisions as wars. Secondly, because the traditional power balances of the parties were shattered by voters this time. The victors, the Socialist People’s Party especially, lost eight seats combined and must rely on two supporting parties – the centrist Danish Social Liberal Party and the Marxist Red-Green Alliance – who in turn earned eight seats each. That and the occasionally possible deal with some of the right wing parties. Actual democracy, everyone is hoping.
What is certain to end and even be somewhat reversed is the xenophobic policies. The mechanism of buying capitalist laws with racist or nationalist laws have been exhausted. Recently Germany was angered by Denmark reinstating border controls although abandoned everywhere in the European Union and Danes – leftist, centrist and moderately rightist alike – have witnessed too many disputes with NGOs over international law and humanitarian treaties. But will a fully “red” government replace the old one? No. Although, ironically, they were the most critical of the opposition parties when immigration laws were ever tightened, the differences between the centrists and the Marxists are too many and too big.
But there is something else the entire opposition has in common: green policies! If they live up to the promises their political programs share we can expect some of the following from the next Danish government:
- Actual legislation on CO2 targets and reduction rate – CO2 emissions reduced by at least 40% by 2020
- Half of electricity from wind and biogas produced from all major agricultural manure by 2020
- Fossil energy replaced with renewable energy in electricity and heating sector by 2035
- Gross energy consumption to be reduced by at least 40% and fossil energy for transport phased out by 2050
- Accelerated construction of planned off shore wind farms, new near-shore wind farms and new turbines on land
- Increased energy saving requirements of energy companies and increased funding for energy research and development
- Accelerated energy renovation of public buildings and public housing
- Copenhagen road paywall, investment in improved public transport, accelerated infrastructure for electric cars and a tax on flight tickets
Often visitors to Denmark express respect for our wind mills and green initiatives. Our country is mentioned in documentaries and international news for our sustainable solutions and bicyclists. The truth is, for the past ten years we have been showing off efforts of the Social Democratic 1990s. While the Danish People’s Party and the Liberal Party harbored some of the last climate change deniers (allowing only rare environmental initiatives supported by the Conservatives) Denmark was left behind by other Scandinavian and European countries on being green. Germans now both recycle more and build windmills at least as good as ours. We botched COP15, remember?
But Denmark is now back among the most ambitious of nations. And the first half of 2012 the new Danish government will hold Presidency of the Council of the European Union. So, see you in a second, green Europe.[Source of green policy summary: Information.dk / Og vinderen blev det grønne Danmark.
A decent summary of the election in English at The Economist / A left turn for Denmark.]
Author: Benno Hansen
MSc degree in horticulture from Copenhagen University, thesis on Hidden Markov Modelling of protein sequences. Fields of professional interests include: Writing popular science texts, ecology, multi-disciplinary work, bioinformatics and computational biology, sustainability, plant biology. Also did two semesters of computer business studies – before upgrading from business school indoctrination to Copenhagen University enlightenment.
Currently working in patent department of major multinational pharmaceutical corporation. … Have also … vacuum cleaned bodies of escaped laboratory test frogs, been a mail man with the Danish Postal Service and counted the number of passengers for the Danish Railways.
My goal is to publish a best selling science fiction novel and/or get elected for parliament with an intellectual party.