Sunday, September 11, 2011

Danish Politics (be prepared to be confused)

This coming Thursday, 80-90% of Denmark will vote for a new parliament. Can you believe how high the voter turnout is?! The streets are covered with posters featuring a photo of the political hopefuls, their name, and the name of the party under which they are running. I've noticed a large number of political parties represented, so I asked a few of our Danish friends about the different parties and where they stand on the political landscape.

Here is a little cheat-sheet I created to help me remember where all the parties lie. This list doesn't cover every party, but only the major parties. As you can see, the most liberal of the parties is called Enhedslisten, which means the unity party. The most conservative of the parties is called the Dansk Folkeparti, or the Danish People's Party (think Danish tea party, yet not quite that conservative). However, unlike American politics, there are a lot of political parties that fall between these two extremes, and it's actually these 'middle of the road' parties that hold the majority of power. Let's start from the left (which, confusingly enough, is represented by the color red in Denmark, while the conservative parties are represented by the color blue). Next to the Enhedslisten is the Socialistisk Folkeparti, or the Socialist People's Party. Next comes the Socialdemokraterne, or the Social Democrats. Of the liberal parties, the Social Democrats have the most power, followed by the Socialists.
Now here is where things start to get funny... there is a party called Radikale, or the Radicals. When I first heard of this group, I assumed they were either very liberal or very conservative, hence 'radical'. However, this party isn't in a fixed location on the political map. Their allegiance is flexible. Strange, huh?
And yet most confusing fun: the least conservative of the conservative parties is called (wait for it...) Venstre, or the Left (they are also known as The Liberals... hahaha!)! Yep, a conservative party called Left. That's pretty funny if you ask me. This is the party that is currently in power; the current prime minister (who isn't voted for, but is rather chosen by the party with the most seats in Parliament) is in the Left party. One of my friends explained the name: the Left used to sit on the left side of Parliament, hence the name. Next comes the Konservative Folkeparti, or the Conservatives. As mentioned above, the most conservative of the political parties is the Dansk Folkeparti, or the Danish People's Party.
Bobby and I won't have the opportunity to vote for at least 7 more years (it takes a minimum of 9 years to gain Danish citizenship), but we've enjoyed learning about the political process in our new home country. We are pleasantly surprised by the relative liberalism of almost all of the parties; no one is trying to get rid of same-sex civil unions (which were legalized in 1989, making Denmark the first country to legalize same-sex civil unions) or abortion rights. Of course, there are the familiar arguments of lowering taxes, reducing unemployment benefits, tightening immigration, and other bs things... I guess no where is perfect. Happy voting!

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