September 16th was a BIG day in Denmark: Election Day! A new party defeated the government that had been in charge for ten years AND Denmark elected its first female Prime Minister.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt aka the new big wig!
I have been in Denmark during the entire campaign period and I’ve noticed a few things, a few things that America could maybe jot down:
1) The 179 members of Parliament and the Prime Minister have a four-year term, but unlike in America, the Prime Minister can call for new elections before the four years is up if all is going to hell.
2) Once the new election date is announced, everybody has three weeks to campaign. ONLY three weeks! That means no year long plus vicious ad campaigns that drag on and on and on…..
3) 89% of the Danish population placed their stemmer yesterday! Stemmer means “voice” in Danish. In the 2008 elections, only 56% of Americans voted. Step it up America!
4) In addition to a Parliament, Denmark has a Queen (who is basically just a ceremonial head with no powers). How cool are Queens? So cool!
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
I could pass as a Queen, right?
5) This next thing is really hard to explain, but I’m going to give it a shot. (I’d probably get a “Medill F” at school because I’m going to write things down that I think I know, but probably/most definitely are wrong.) Unlike the United States which has two main parties, Denmark has nine. Every party has a leader/spokesperson and unlike in the US, there isn’t really losers, if that makes sense? All of the leaders get elected to Parliament because they’ll for sure get enough votes, but then they hope a lot more people from their party also get elected. Helle Thorning-Schmidt is the leader of the Danish Social Democrats and the reason she is going to be Prime Minister is because she was able to put together a government with 90 people in the majority. The Danish Social Democrats did not get the most votes in election, but they will be teaming up with 3 or 4 other parties, thus able to have a majority. The main point I’m trying to make I guess is that the Danish system of politics is based on cooperation. One party will never get enough votes to have a majority by themselves, so it causes cooperation with many other parties, which means the Danes are being better represented in Parliament, instead of having one dominant party with one dominant stance. Wow, I’m more confused after writing that. Here is an article I found if you want a better explanation: http://universitypost.dk/article/danish-politics-dummies
6) Politicians are young! You can be 18-years-old and run for Parliament. The spokesperson for the Red-Green Alliance, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen is only 27 years old and has been on the executive committee of the party since she was 23. I’ve noticed that people my age are excited and truly interested in politics I think because of this fact.
A campaign photo of Johanne Schmidt-Nielson. Screams hip and young..and also technically Communist.
7) And finally, the number one thing America should learn from Denmark…free pastries!! Almost every morning at my train station, campaigners handed out pastries to people walking by. How magnificent is that! Also handed out: roses, apples and water. Love. Now I kinda wish the campaign season was longer…