Social Democrats (Denmark)
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Social Democrats Denmark

The Social Democrats (Danish: Socialdemokraterne), officially the Social Democratic Party or simply Social Democracy (Socialdemokratiet), is a social-democratic political party in Denmark.[2][3]

Founded by Louis Pio in 1871, the party first entered the Folketing in the 1884 elections. 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 after the 1924 elections under Thorvald Stauning, the longest-serving Danish Prime Minister of the 20th century. During Stauning's government which lasted until the 1926 elections, the Social Democrats exerted a profound influence on Danish society, laying the foundation of the Danish welfare state. From 2002 to 2016, the party used the name Socialdemokraterne in some contexts.[10][11]

The party was the major coalition partner in government from the 2011 elections, with then-party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt as Prime Minister. After the 2015 elections, the party was no longer in government, although it regained the position as the largest party in the Danish parliament, the Folketing, with 47 of 179 seats. Thorning-Schmidt withdrew as party leader on the night of the election as a direct consequence of the loss of government control and she was succeeded on 28 June 2015 by the former vice leader Mette Frederiksen, who shifted the party back on the left on economics while criticising mass immigration.[12][13]

A member of the Party of European Socialists, the Social Democrats have three MEPs in the European Parliament.

Name and symbol

The party traces its own history back to the International Labour Association, founded in 1871 and banned in 1873, loosely re-organised in the Social Democratic Labour Party which in 1876 issued the Gimle program, but as a formal political party it was first founded in 1878 as the Social Democratic Federation. This name was formally carried by the party for almost a hundred years, although in practice it also used a number of other names until it changed its name to Social Democracy in 1965. At a congress in Aalborg in 2002, the party changed its name to the Social Democrats, but from 2016 again only Social Democracy is used.[10][11]

The party has the letter A as a symbol, but the abbreviation S is often used in the media. The party's classic symbol is a red rose and in recent times an A in a red circle.


19th century

The party was founded as in 1871 by Louis Pio, Harald Brix and Paul Geleff.[14] The goal was to organise the emerging working class on a democratic and socialist basis. The industrialisation of Denmark had begun in the mid-19th century and a period of rapid urbanisation 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 the Folketing, the Danish parliament. In 1876, the party held an annual conference, adopting the first party manifesto. The stated policy was as follows:

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 party had their first two members of parliament elected, namely Peter Thygesen Holm and Chresten Hørdum.

20th century

In 1906, the party created the Social Democratic Youth Association, lasting until 1920 when the Social Democratic Youth of Denmark and current party's youth wing was founded.

In the 1924 elections, the 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.[15] That same year, he appointed Nina Bang as the world's first female minister, nine years after women's suffrage had been given in Denmark. Stauning stayed in power until his death in 1942, with 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.[16] The settlement was named after Stauning's apartment in Kanslergade in Copenhagen and included extensive agricultural subsidies and reforms of the legislation and administration in the social sector.[17] In 1935, Stauning was reelected with the famous slogan "Stauning or Chaos".[18]

Social Democrats election poster for the October 1945 general election

Stauning's second cabinet lasted until the Nazi occupation of Denmark in 1940, when the cabinet was widened to include all political parties for a national unity government and the Danish government pursued a collaborative policy with the German occupiers. Through the 1940s and until 1972, Denmark's Prime Ministers were all from the party.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen government coalition: 1993-2001

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 Democrats-led coalition governments (the I, II, III and IV Cabinets of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen) 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.[19]

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 (US$4.9 billion) turned into a deficit.[] To combat this, the government increased taxes, limiting private consumption. The 1998 initiative, 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 elections.

In opposition: 2001-2011

After being defeated by the Liberal Party in the 2001 elections, the party chairmanship went to former finance and foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft. Following another defeat in the 2005 elections, 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-leaning. On 12 April 2005, Thorning-Schmidt was elected as the new leader.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt government coalition: 2011-2015

In the 2011 elections, the Social Democrats gained 44 seats in parliament, the lowest number since 1953.[20] Nonetheless, the party succeeded in establishing a minority government with the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party. The incumbent centre-right coalition led by the Liberal Party lost power to a centre-left coalition led by the Social Democrats, making Thorning-Schmidt the country's first female Prime Minister. The Danish Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party became part of the three-party centre-left coalition government. The new parliament convened on 4 October. The government rolled back anti-immigration legislation enacted by the previous government[21] and passed a tax-reform with support from the liberal-conservative opposition.[22] The tax reform raised the top tax threshold, effectively lowering tax rates for the wealthiest citizens.[23] The aim of the tax reform was to increase labour output to fend off a projected labour shortage within the next decades. The stated goal was 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 labour market to increase the economic benefit of working relative to receiving welfare.[24]

On 3 February 2014, the Socialist People's Party left the government in protest over the sale of shares in the public energy company DONG Energy to the investment bank Goldman Sachs.[25] Because of the government's minority status and of its dependency on the support of the Danish Social Liberal Party, the government had to jettison many of the policies that the Social Democrats-Socialist People's Party coalition had given during the campaign. Although critics have accused the government of breaking its promises, other studies argue that it accomplished half of its stated goals, blaming instead poor public relations strategies for its increasingly negative public image.[26] The government pursued a centrist compromise agenda, building several reforms with support from both sides of the parliament. This caused friction with the supporting Red-Green Alliance which was kept outside of influence.[22]

In opposition: 2015-2019

In the 2015 elections, the Social Democrats gained seats and became the biggest party in the parliament again since 2001, yet lost the government because the right-wing parties had a majority. The results of the 2015 election and the defeat of the left-bloc led Thorning-Schmidt to resign as Prime Minister on election night and making way for the next leader Mette Frederiksen.[27] Under Frederiksen, the Social Democrats voted in favor of a law allowing Danish authorities to confiscate money, jewellery and other valuable items refugees crossing the border may have,[28] despite harsh condemnation from the United Nations Human Right Council[29] and widespread comparisons between the plan and the treatment of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.[30]

Similarly, the Social Democrats voted for a law banning wearing of burqas and niqabs while abstaining during a vote on a law on mandatory handshakes irrespective of religious sentiment at citizenship ceremonies and on a plan to house criminal asylum seekers on an island used for researching contagious animal diseases. Frederiksen has also backed the right-wing populist Danish People's Party in their paradigm shift push to make repatriation rather than integration the goal of asylum policy. She has called for a cap on non-Western immigrants, expulsion of asylum seekers to a reception centre in North Africa and forced labour for immigrants in exchange for benefits. Labeling economic foreign policies of Europe as too liberal, Frederiksen has criticised other social democratic parties for losing their voters' trust by failing to prevent globalisation chipping away at labour rights, increasing inequality and exposing them to uncontrolled immigration.[]

Mette Frederiksen government: 2019-present

In the 2019 elections, the Social Democrats gained one further seat and the opposition red bloc of left-wing and centre-left parties (the Social Democrats, the Danish Social Liberal Party, the Socialist People's Party and the Red-Green Alliance along with the Faroese Social Democratic Party and Greenland's Inuit Ataqatigiit and Siumut) won a majority of 93 out of 179 seats in the Folketing while support for the Danish People's Party and the Liberal Alliance collapsed, costing Lars Løkke Rasmussen his majority. With the result beyond doubt on election night, Rasmussen conceded defeat and Frederiksen has been commissioned by Queen Margrethe II to lead the negotiations to form a new government.[31][32] On 27 June 2019, Frederiksen was successful in forming the Frederiksen Cabinet, an exclusively Social Democratic minority government supported by the red bloc, becoming the second woman in the role after Thorning-Schmidt as well as the youngest Prime Minister in Danish history at the age of 41.[33]

Despite having run on a anti-immigration stance during the election, Frederiksen shifted her stance on immigration by allowing more foreign labour and reversing government plans to hold foreign criminals offshore after winning government.[34][35][36]


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. In the political program, 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.[37] As well as adopting more left-leaning economics, the party has become increasingly sceptical of liberal mass immigration from a left-wing point of view as it believes it has had negative impacts for much of the population, a more pressing issue since at least 2001 after the 11 September attacks which intensified during the 2015 European migrant crisis, including the view that perception of adopting the Third Way and practicing centrist, neoliberal economics and supporting unrestricted globalisation contributed to its poor electoral performance in the early 21st century.[12][13] In a recent biography, party leader and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen further argued: "For me, it is becoming increasingly clear that the price of unregulated globalisation, mass immigration and the free movement of labour is paid for by the lower classes".[38]

Political leadership

The leader of the party is Mette Frederiksen. She succeeded Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who stepped down after the left bloc's defeat in the 2015 elections. Deputy leaders are Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen and Mogens Jensen. The secretary general is Henrik Dam Kristensen, the party secretary is Lars Midtiby and the political speaker is Magnus Heunicke.[39]

In the Cabinet of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the party had ten ministers, including the Prime Minister.[40]

Electoral performance

The Social Democrats governed Denmark for most of the 20th century, with a few intermissions such as the Conservative People's Party-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 Votes % Seats +/- Government
1884 7,000 4.9 (3rd)
Increase 2 In opposition
1887 8,000 3.5 (3rd)
Decrease 1 In opposition
1890 17,000 7.3 (3rd)
Increase 2 In opposition
1892 20,000 8.9 (4th)
Decrease 1 In opposition
1895 24,510 11.3 (4th)
Increase 6 In opposition
1898 31,870 14.2 (4th)
Increase 4 In opposition
1901 38,398 17.8 (3rd)
Increase 2 In opposition
1903 48,117 21.0 (3rd)
Increase 2 In opposition
1906 76,612 25.4 (2nd)
Increase 8 In opposition
1909 93,079 29.0 (1st)
Steady 0 External support
1910 98,718 28.3 (2nd)
Steady 0 In opposition
1913 107,365 29.6 (1st)
Increase 8 External support
1915 N/A N/A
Steady 0 External support
1918 262,796 28.7 (2nd)
Increase 7 External support
April 1920 300,345 29.2 (2nd)
Increase 3 In opposition
July 1920 285,166 29.8 (2nd)
Steady 0 In opposition
September 1920 389,653 32.2 (2nd)
Increase 6 In opposition
1924 469,949 36.6 (1st)
Increase 7 In government
1926 497,106 37.2 (1st)
Decrease 2 In opposition
1929 593,191 41.8 (1st)
Increase 8 In coalition
1932 660.839 42.7 (1st)
Increase 1 In coalition
1935 759,102 46.4 (1st)
Increase 6 In coalition
1939 729,619 42.9 (1st)
Decrease 4 In coalition
1943 894,632 44.5 (1st)
Increase 2 In coalition
1945 671,755 32.8 (1st)
Decrease 18 In coalition
1947 836,231 41.2 (1st)
Increase 9 In government
1950 813,224 39.6 (1st)
Increase 2 In opposition
April 1953 836,507 40.4 (1st)
Increase 2 In government
September 1953 894,913 41.3 (1st)
Increase 13 In government
1957 910,170 39.4 (1st)
Decrease 4 In coalition
1960 1,023,794 42.1 (1st)
Increase 6 In coalition
1964 1,103,667 41.9 (1st)
Steady 0 In government
1966 1,068,911 38.2 (1st)
Decrease 7 In government
1968 974,833 34.2 (1st)
Decrease 7 In opposition
1971 1,074,777 37.3 (1st)
Increase 8 In government
1973 783,145 25.6 (1st)
Decrease 24 In opposition
1975 913,155 29.9 (1st)
Decrease 7 In government
1977 1,150,355 37.0 (1st)
Increase 12 In coalition
1979 1,213,456 38.3 (1st)
Increase 3 In government
1981 1,026,726 32.9 (1st)
Decrease 9 In government
1984 1,062,561 31.6 (1st)
Decrease 3 In opposition
1987 985,906 29.3 (1st)
Decrease 2 In opposition
1988 992,682 29.8 (1st)
Increase 1 In opposition
1990 1,221,121 37.4 (1st)
Increase 14 In opposition
1994 1,150,048 34.6 (1st)
Decrease 7 In coalition
1998 1,223,620 35.9 (1st)
Increase 1 In coalition
2001 1,003,023 29.1 (2nd)
Decrease 11 In opposition
2005 867,350 25.8 (2nd)
Decrease 5 In opposition
2007 881,037 25.5 (2nd)
Decrease 2 In opposition
2011 879,615 24.8 (2nd)
Decrease 1 In coalition
2015 925,288 26.3 (1st)
Increase 3 In opposition
2019 915,363 25.9 (1st)
Increase 1 In government

Municipal Councils

Date Seats
No. ±
Increase 117
Increase 261
Increase 278
Increase 217
Increase 262
Decrease 15
Increase 179
Decrease 116
Decrease 827
Increase 442
Decrease 769
Decrease 237
Increase 172
Decrease 103
Increase 121
Increase 31
Decrease 53
Decrease 52
Decrease 97
Decrease 651
Decrease 99
Decrease 28
Increase 69

Amt and Regional Councils

Date Seats
No. ±
Increase 7
Increase 2
Decrease 5
Increase 8
Decrease 1
Increase 4
Decrease 1
Increase 63
Decrease 27
Increase 9
Decrease 4
Increase 3
Increase 3
Decrease 10
Steady 0
Decrease 7
Decrease 52
Decrease 9
Decrease 1
Increase 3

European Parliament

Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
% of
Danish vote
No. of
overall seats won
No. of
Danish seats won
1979 382,487 21.9 (1st)
1984 387,098 19.4 (3rd)
Steady 0
1989 417,076 23.3 (1st)
Increase 1
1994 329,202 15.8 (3rd)
Decrease 1
1999 324,256 16.5 (2nd)
Steady 0
2004 618,412 32.6 (1st)
Increase 2
2009 503,982 21.5 (1st)
Decrease 1
2014 435,245 19.1 (2nd)
Decrease 1
2019 592,645 21.5 (2nd)
Steady 0

Leader of the Social Democrats

International affiliations

The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International between 1923 and 1940.[41] It is now a member of the Progressive Alliance, an association of progressive 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


  1. ^ "Hvor mange medlemmer har de politiske partier?" (in Danish). Folketinget. 2016. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ a b Nordsieck, Wolfram (2019). "Denmark". Parties and Elections in Europe.
  3. ^ a b Merkel, Wolfgang; Petring, Alexander; Henkes, Christian; Egle, Christoph (2008). Social Democracy in Power: the capacity to reform. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-43820-9.
  4. ^ Milne, Richard (10 July 2017). "Denmark's centre-left seeks common ground with populists". Financial Times. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ "Parties & Organisations". Progressive Alliance. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Valgkamp har mange nuancer af rød" (in Danish).
  7. ^ "Socialdemokraterne ændrer den røde farve: Her er partiets nye kulør" (in Danish).
  8. ^ "AKVA3: Valg til regions råd efter område, parti og stemmer/kandidater/køn". Statistics Denmark. Retrieved 2010.
  9. ^ "VALGK3: Valg til kommunale råd efter område, parti og stemmer/kandidater/køn". Statistics Denmark. Retrieved 2010.
  10. ^ a b "Socialdemokratiet skifter navn". BT/Ritzau. 14 September 2002. Retrieved 2016.
  11. ^ a b Lange, Lasse; Holsten, Erik (24 September 2016). "Socialdemokratiet laver lille navneændring". Altinget. Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ a b Orange, Richard (11 May 2018). "Mette Frederiksen: the anti-migrant left leader set to win power in Denmark". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ a b O'Leary, Naomi (6 September 2018). "Danish left veering right on immigration". Politico. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ "Socialdemokraterne - Socialdemokratiet" (in Danish). Det Kongelige Bibliotek. Retrieved 2013.
  15. ^ "Den skjulte forskel". Kristeligt Dagblad. 5 February 2005. Archived from the original on 18 July 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  16. ^ Skou, p. 367.
  17. ^ Mørch, Søren (2002). 24 statsministre: 24 fortællinger om magten i Danmark i det tyvende århundrede og en kort forklaring på, hvor den 25. er blevet af (in Danish). Copenhagen: Gyldendal. p. 165. ISBN 9788702003611.
  18. ^ Svensson, Palle (January 1974). "Support for the Danish Social Democratic Party 1924-39 -- Growth and Response". Scandinavian Political Studies. 9 (A9): 127-146. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9477.1974.tb00536.x.Full text.
  19. ^ Volkesn, Andrea (2004). "Policy Changes of European Social Democrats 1945-98". In Bonoli, Giuliano (ed.). Social Democratic Party Policies in Contemporary Europe. Psychology Press.
  20. ^ "Socialdemokraterne - English version - Votes and seats". Retrieved 2013.
  21. ^ Lee, William (6 October 2011). "Denmark's New Government Rolls Back an Anti-Immigrant Legacy". Time. Retrieved 2013.
  22. ^ a b "Government defends tax deal with opposition". The Copenhagen Post. 25 June 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  23. ^ "PM supports call to raise top tax threshold". The Copenhagen Post. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  24. ^ "Helle Thorning-Schmidt: Danes must work more". Nordic Labour Journal. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2013.
  25. ^ Hakim, Danny (30 January 2014). "Goldman Deal Threatens Danish Government". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015.
  26. ^ "Government on track but off message". The Copenhagen Post. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  27. ^ "Den utraditionelle socialdemokrat trækker sig" (in Danish).
  28. ^ O'Sullivan, Feargus (26 January 2016). "Denmark Will Strip Refugees of Their Valuables". CityLab. Retrieved 2019.
  29. ^ Larson, Nina (21 January 2016). "Danish migrant bill blasted at UN". The Local. Retrieved 2015.
  30. ^ Noack, Rick (26 January 2016). "Denmark wants to seize jewelry and cash from refugees". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015.
  31. ^ Ingvorsen, Emil Søndergård (6 June 2019). "Løkke: Mette Frederiksen udpeget som kongelig undersøger" (in Danish). DR. Retrieved 2019.
  32. ^ Müller, Thea Deleuran (27 June 2019). "Danmarks nye regering er nu på plads: Se hele Mette Frederiksens ministerhold her" (in Danish). DR. Retrieved 2019.
  33. ^ "Denmark's youngest prime minister to lead new government". Deutsche Welle. 25 June 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  34. ^ "Social Democrats form government in Denmark". Politico. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  35. ^ "Denmark gets new left-wing government with plans to increase welfare spending and scrap anti-immigration measures". The Independent. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  36. ^ "Denmark becomes third Nordic country to form leftist government this year". The Japan Times. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  37. ^ "Handen Pa Hjertet". Socialdemokratiet. Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  38. ^ Copenhagen, Richard Orange (11 May 2019). "Mette Frederiksen: the anti-immigration left leader set to win power in Denmark". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019.
  39. ^ "Ledelse og ordførere - Socialdemokraternes ledelse". Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 2013. Ledelse og ordførere.
  40. ^ "Here are Denmark's new ministers". The Copenhagen Post. 3 October 2011. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  41. ^ Kowalski, Werner (1985). Geschichte der sozialistischen arbeiter-internationale: 1923 - 19. Berlin: Dt. Verl. d. Wissenschaften. p. 290.

External links

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