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The Danish Parliament
Type Unicameral
Speaker Mogens Lykketoft, Social Democrats
Since 4 October 2011
Seats 179
Political groups


     Liberals (47)
     Social Democrats (45)
     Danish People's Party (22)
     Social Liberal Party (17)
     Socialist People's Party (15)
     Red-Green Alliance (12)
     Liberal Alliance (9)
     Conservative People's Party (8)
     Union Party (1)
     Social Democratic Party (1)
     Inuit Community (1)
     Forward (1)
Voting system Open list proportional representation with a 2% election threshold
Last election 15 September 2011
Meeting place
Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen

The Folketing (Danish: Folketinget, Danish pronunciation: [ˈfʌlɡ̊ətˢeŋˀ]), is the national parliament of Denmark. The name literally means "The people's thing"—that is, the people's governing assembly. The Folketing consists of 179 representatives; 175 from Denmark, 2 from Greenland and a further 2 from the Faroe Islands. It is located in Christiansborg Palace, on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen.

Members are elected by proportional representation: 135 by the D'Hondt method and 40 by the Sainte-Laguë method. The most recent general election took place on 15 September 2011.


From 1849 to 1953 the Folketing was one of the two houses in the bicameral parliament known as the Rigsdag; the other house was known as the Landsting. Since both houses, in principle, had equal power, the terms "upper house" and "lower house" were not used. The difference between the houses was voter representation.

The Folketing was elected by common vote and consisted mainly of independent farmers, traders, and merchants as well as the educated classes (i.e., the liberal forces of society). From 1866 to 1915 the right of vote for the Landsting was restricted to the wealthiest, and some of its members were appointed by the king, thus it predominantly represented the landed gentry and other conservatives. From 1915 the Landsting was also elected by common vote, although indirectly and with a higher age limit than for the Folketing. During the next decades, law-making mainly took place in the Folketing and the Landsting came to be regarded as a superfluous rubber stamp.

In 1953 the people by popular vote adopted a revised constitution. Among the changes was the elimination of the Landsting and the introduction of a unicameral parliament, known only as the Folketing. Christiansborg Palace has been the domicile of parliament since 1849. The palace is located in the heart of Copenhagen.

Since parties need only 2% of the vote to get a seat, several parties win seats, making it all but impossible for one party to win the 90 seats required for a majority. No party has won an outright majority in the Folketing since 1901. All Danish governments since then have been coalitions or one-party minority governments. For this reason, a long-standing provision in the constitution allows a government to begin rule without getting a vote of confidence, as long as it does not lose a vote of no confidence during the parliamentary term. One consequence is that unlike in most other parliamentary systems, a cabinet must usually piece together a majority for each piece of legislation.

Latest election results


The Social Democrats, Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party form a three-party government. The new parliament convened on 4 October, the first Tuesday of the month.

Coalition governments

The former Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, led a centre-right minority government consisting of the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Conservative People's Party. This coalition government worked with regular parliamentary support from the national conservative Danish People's Party and often gained the necessary 90th seat for majority in the Folketing through negotiations with either the sole MP from the Christian Democrats, Ørum-Jørgensen[1] or another MP outside parties, Christmas Møller, both elected in 2007 as conservative MPs and having defected since then.

Since the 2007 elections, the Liberal Alliance (previously Ny Alliance) have gained momentum in opinion polls, and since early 2010, the governing coalition have not been able to gather a majority in the polls without the support of the Alliance. The continuing rise in the polls is to an extent the result of the internal crisis in the Conservative People's Party over the leadership Lene Espersen[2] and the continuing debate over a lack of "true" liberal/conservative ideology in government policy.[3]

On 13 January 2011, the continuing turmoil within the Conservative group in the Folketing caused Lene Espersen to resign as political leader of the party and focus on her role as Minister of Foreign Affairs.[4] A leadership election between Brian Mikkelsen, the Minister of Economic and Business Affairs and Lars Barfoed, the Justice Minister, was widely expected,[5] but on 14 January the Conservative group in the Folketing unanimously elected Barfoed as their new political leader.[6]

The Social Democrats under the leadership of Helle Thorning-Schmidt have enjoyed continuing majorities in opinion polls since late 2009 and hopes to form a centre-left government coalition consisting of the Socialist People's Party and the Social Liberal Party with parliamentary support from the small Red-Green Alliance.[7][8]

Both Margrethe Vestager (Social Liberal Party) and Villy Søvndal (Socialist People's Party) pledged their support to Thorning-Schmidt before the election.[9] But there has been considerable debate about the future politics of this coalition, mainly because the Social Liberal Party demands a more liberal economic agenda. Also on immigration issues there are political differences between the three coalition parties. This has led some observers to believe that the Social Liberal Party will not join a government coalition but instead opt to be a part of the parliamentary support of a new, centre-left government.[10] In the event the Social Liberals did join the new three-party coalition government formed on 3 October.

Constitutional requirements

  • The Folketing consists of 179 members all elected for a four-year term or until the Prime Minister (via the Queen-in-council) calls for elections, whichever comes first. Greenland and the Faroe Islands each elect 2 members separately.
  • The Constitution requires for "equal representation of the various opinions of the electorate", and for regional representation to be secured. The electoral act stipulates the details for this: 135 seats are elected by proportional representation in 10 districts, and 40 supplementary seats are allotted to make out for the difference between district and nation-wide vote. The 135 seats are distributed to the parties by the D'Hondt method of the party-list system of proportional representation and the 40 supplementary seats by the Sainte-Laguë method. Each party may choose among a number of methods for how the seats won by that party are to be distributed among the candidates.[11]
  • The result is proportional representation; however, in rare cases, the biggest parties may gain one or two seats extra from smaller parties.
  • The voter may vote for a party list, one of the candidates on a party list, or an independent candidate.
  • Parties (usually district party assemblies) decide on the nomination of candidates before the election. When co-nomination is assigned, candidates are elected according to personal votes. When priority order is assigned, only an extreme number of personal votes can change the rank.
  • Parties must either pass the threshold, 2% of the national vote, or gain a district seat to gain any supplemental seats. Though possible, it is very rare for a party to gain a district seat without getting 2% of the national vote. There is also an esoteric third rule that allows a party to be represented, if it has enough votes in two of the three areas that the country is divided into. No party has ever fulfilled this rule without getting 2% of the national vote.
  • To stand for election, parties that are not currently represented in Parliament must collect certificates of support from approximately 20,000 voters (the number of valid votes cast in Denmark proper at the latest election divided by 175, the equivalent of one seat – after the 2007 election the required number is 19,769) and have these individually stamped by the registration office in these voters' municipalities of residence.
  • Denmark has universal suffrage for all citizens over 18 years who live in the realm and who have not been declared incapable of managing their own affairs. The constitution makes it possible to restrict suffrage for convicted criminals and people receiving social benefits, but this option has not been used for several decades.
  • All voters who have not been convicted of criminal acts that makes them unworthy for a seat in the parliament, are eligible. The Folketing decides if a member is eligible or not (after his election).
  • The constitution does not mention political parties at all, although the electoral act does, and MPs are almost always elected for a party. The only independent who has been elected in modern times is the comedian Jacob Haugaard, but independents, usually unknown ones, are seen at every election. Requirements for standing as an independent candidate are much more lenient than for a new party (signatures from merely 150 eligible voters), but independents are only allowed to contest in a single district, making it very difficult to gain the needed number of votes for a seat.
  • Members enjoy immunity, meaning that no criminal charges may be brought against an MP, unless he is caught red-handed, provided that the Folketing does not lift the immunity. The purpose of this is to prevent political persecution. In practice, the Folketing has always lifted the immunity when a member has been accused of a crime, usually with the consent of the accused member himself.
  • Debates can be conducted behind closed doors, although this has not happened since 9 April 1940, day of the German invasion in WW II.
  • Ministers may hold a seat in parliament, but they do not need to. Supreme Court judges — according to convention — may not hold a seat whilst also acting as judges.
  • Ministers may — even if they are not MPs — demand talking time whenever they want.
  • Bills may be brought before parliament by members (private member's bills) and ministers. Bills are predominantly brought before parliament by ministers, because they have the Law Office of the Ministry of Justice at their disposal. Instead of putting forward a private bill, the opposition usually put forward a proposal for parliamentary decision, i.e., a short resolution that addresses the subject and directs the relevant minister to propose a bill concerning it.

List of Speakers of the Folketing

From To Speaker of the Folketing Years of living
30 January 1850 3 August 1852 Carl Christoffer Georg Andræ, NL 1812–1893
4 October 1852 12 June 1853 Johan Nicolai Madvig, NL 1804–1886
13 June 1853 2 December 1859 Carl Edvard Rotwitt, BV 1812–1860
3 December 1859 2 December 1870 Laurids Nørgaard Bregendahl, NL 1811–1872
3 December 1870 30 September 1883 Christopher Krabbe, V 1833–1913
1 October 1883 2 October 1887[note 1] Christen Berg, V 1829–1891
3 October 1887 16 December 1894 Sofus Høgsbro, V 1822–1902
17 December 1894 16 April 1895 Rasmus Claussen, V 1835–1905
17 April 1895 4 October 1901 Sofus Høgsbro, V 1822–1902
5 October 1901 30 January 1905 Herman Trier, V 1845–1925
31 January 1905 14 March 1912 Anders Thomsen, V 1842–1920
15 March 1912 13 June 1913 Jens Christian Christensen, V 1856–1930
14 June 1913 29 March 1922 Niels Pedersen-Nyskov, V 1850–1922
7 April 1922 10 April 1924 Jørgen Jensen-Klejs, V 1863–1947
30 April 1924 24 November 1932 Hans Peter Hansen, S 1872–1953
30 November 1932 1 May 1933 Gerhard Nielsen, S 1871–1933
9 May 1933 30 October 1945 Hans Rasmussen, S 1873–1949
22 November 1945 22 February 1950 Julius Bomholt, S 1896–1969
23 February 1950 22 September 1964 Gustav Pedersen, S 1893–1975
6 October 1964 22 January 1968 Julius Bomholt, S 1896–1969
6 February 1968 30 September 1978 Karl Skytte, B 1908–1986
3 October 1978 8 December 1981 Knud Børge Andersen, S 1914–1984
22 December 1981 10 January 1989 Svend Jakobsen, S b. 1935
10 January 1989 3 October 1989 Erik Ninn-Hansen, C b. 1922
3 October 1989 15 January 1993 H. P. Clausen, C 1928–1998
27 January 1993 5 October 1994 Henning Rasmussen, S 1926–1997
5 October 1994 11 March 1998 Erling Olsen, S 1927–2011
26 March 1998 11 March 2003†[note 2] Ivar Hansen, V 1938–2003
18 March 2003 13 November 2007 Christian Mejdahl, V b. 1939
28 November 2007 4 October 2011 Thor Pedersen, V b. 1945
4 October 2011 Incumbent Mogens Lykketoft, S b. 1946


  • List of members of the parliament of Denmark, 1990–1994
  • List of members of the parliament of Denmark, 1994–1998
  • List of members of the parliament of Denmark, 1998–2001
  • List of members of the parliament of Denmark, 2001–2005
  • List of members of the parliament of Denmark, 2005–2007
  • List of members of the parliament of Denmark, 2007–2011
  • List of members of the parliament of Denmark, 2011–present

See also

Denmark portal
Faroe Islands portal
Greenland portal
Politics portal



External links

  • (English) Folketinget – Official site

Coordinates: 55°40′34″N 12°34′47″E / 55.67611°N 12.57972°E / 55.67611; 12.57972

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