Denmark

   

Executive Accountability

#3
Key Findings
Marked by mature and well-functioning oversight mechanisms, Denmark’s executive-accountability score places it in the top ranks internationally (rank 3). Its score on this measure represents a decline of 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Citizens have good knowledge of domestic and EU policies, with recently implemented mandatory digital mailboxes making it easier for the government to communicate with the public. The media covers domestic policy more thoroughly than it does international issues. Policymakers increasingly communicate directly with the public through social media.

Parliamentarians have modest resources, but reasonably strong formal oversight powers. The audit and ombuds offices are independent and well respected.

Political parties show a significant degree of internal democracy. Economic and non-economic interest organizations are typically sophisticated, and often have a strong influence on policy. Major interest organizations are often members of committees and commissions tasked with preparing legislation.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#1

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
8
Citizens get most of their information on government policy developments through television, radio, newspapers, news websites and social media. Government documents are, as a rule, freely accessible via the internet, and published work is also often free. Documents can further be read in public libraries, of which there are many. Mail from the public is nearly exclusively going to Digital Post mailboxes. These are now mandatory for businesses and for citizens (with a few exceptions for the latter). Already most public services require online applications using a so-called easy ID (NemID).

In addition to the formal access to information, there is the critical question whether the information available is in a form comprehensible by most citizens. In many policy areas the level of technicalities and complexities is rather high, which is a barrier for citizens to adequately assess government policymaking. This is partly solved via independent institutions like the Economic Council and the Panel on Money and Pensions which serve an agency role on the part of citizens in terms of assessing government policymaking.

Election campaigns serve the purpose of presenting and debating the policies of the government as well as the opposition. A very high turnout during national elections (87.74% of eligible voters turned out for the 2011 election and 85.89% for the 2015 election) suggests a high degree of interest and enough knowledge to consider voting important. In the EU context, Danes are considered among the most knowledgeable about EU issues (partly due to the use of referendums), but turnout at elections for the European Parliament are much lower than for national ones (turnout for EU elections in 2014 was 56.32%), presumably because the issues in the former are considered less important. The bread-and-butter questions of national Danish politics – jobs, health, education, pensions and so on – inspire citizens to seek information and take part in politics.

Citations:
Lise Togeby et al., Power and Democracy in Denmark. Conclusions. Århus: Magtudredningen, 2003.

“Voter turnout data for Denmark,” http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?CountryCode=DK (accessed 8 October 2015)

“Denmark mandates digital postboxes,” http://www.itnews.com.au/News/365479,denmark-mandates-digital-postboxes.aspx (accessed 22 October 2014).

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#7

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
8
Parliamentary committees have staff, as do political parties. The parliament also has its own library and recently opened a (small) unit offering consultation on economic issues. In 2015, the total parliamentary staff was 430, which is not huge. More than a quarter of staff are secretaries, a little less than a quarter are academic staff, followed by security personnel and IT staff. In general, the members of parliament depend a lot on the government for information and expertise. To gather information, they ask written and oral questions of ministers, and use hearings, independent sources as well as contacts within interest organizations and think tanks. There is, however, no tradition in Denmark for major independent investigations initiated by the parliament. This can weaken its power in the political game vis-à-vis the government. Party discipline is also a strong factor in Danish politics, which can weaken individual members’ possibilities.

Citations:
Anders Henriksen, “Folketinget er for svagt i forhold til regeringen,” Politiken. 24 August 2010. http://politiken.dk/debat/kroniken/article1042660.ece (accessed 26 April 2013).

Året der gik i Folketinget: Beretning om Folketingsåret 2014-2015. http://www.ft.dk/Folketinget/~/media/PDF/om_folketinget/Aarsberetning/Aarsberetning_2014_15/Året%20der%20gik%20i%20Folketinget%202014-15.pdf.ashx (Accessed 17 October 2016).

Året der gik i Folketinget: Beretning om Folketingsåret 2015-2016. http://www.ft.dk/~/media/sites/ft/pdf/publikationer/aarsberetning/aaret-der-gik-i-folketinget-2015_16.ashx (Accessed 19 October 2017).

Folketingets administration, http://www.ft.dk/Folketinget/Folketingets_administration.aspx (Accessed 1 December 2016).

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske System. 4. udg. Chapter 4. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
9
Parliament is entitled and granted access to most government documents. There are internal ministry documents, however, that are not made available. This is occasionally criticized by some politicians, especially from the opposition. However, ministers and ministries know that it is politically important to heed parliament requests. Documents may be stamped confidential, but, in general, most committee documents are publicly available.

Citations:
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 1: Institutioner og regulering. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers’ Forlag, 2005.

Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. Oktober 2015. http://www.ft.dk/dokumenter/publikationer/folketinget/haandbog_i_folketingsarbejdet_2011.aspx (accessed 22 October 2014).

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
10
Committees regularly summon ministers for meetings, called consultations (samråd). These meetings are key elements of how the Danish parliamentary system works. Consultations play an important role in the legislative process for members of parliament. At the same time, the meetings are where the People’s Assembly exercises its parliamentary control of the government.

Citations:
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 1: Institutioner og Regulering, 2005.

Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 2: Regering, forvaltning og dom, 2004.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Normal committee meetings take place behind closed doors. However, committees can decide to hold open meetings – including ones without the minister present – and invite experts from outside, as well as civil servants and representatives from interest organizations to explore and discuss issues. Such meetings are also open to the press.

Committees may also decide to conduct larger hearings, sometimes in cooperation with the Danish Board of Technology or other organizations. Such hearings normally take place in the room in which the former second chamber of the Danish parliament, the Landsting, met until it was abolished by the new constitution in 1953. To learn more about the issues they legislate, members of parliament also go on study trips and take part in conferences.

Citations:
Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. October 2015.
http://www.ft.dk/Dokumenter/Publikationer/Folketinget/~/media/Pdf_materiale/Pdf_publikationer/Folketinget/H%C3%A5ndbog%20i%20folketingsarbejdet_web_7%20MB.pdf.ashx (accessed 24 April 2013).

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
8
The committee structure largely corresponds to the structure of ministries. The Ministry of Social Affairs, for instance, corresponds to the social affairs committee in the parliament (Folketinget). The Ministry of Taxation corresponds to the fiscal affairs committee in the assembly. Other committees, for instance, deal with energy, defense, culture, environment, health care and education, and have strong ties to the applicable minister.

A few committees do not have a direct parallel, such as the European Affairs Committee. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for coordinating EU policy, the European Affairs committee will have consultations (samråd) with all ministers that take part in EU council meetings, and seek a mandate for upcoming negotiations in the council. This may create internal coordination problems in the parliament, between the European Affairs committee and the committees dealing with the substance of EU legislation (fagudvalg).

Citations:
Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. Oktober 2015. http://www.ft.dk/dokumenter/publikationer/folketinget/haandbog_i_folketingsarbejdet_2011.aspx (Accessed 22 Oktober 2014).

Finn Laursen, “The Role of National Parliamentary Committees in European Scrutiny: Reflections based on the Danish Case,” in Katrin Auel and Arthur Benz, eds. The Europeanisation of Parliamentary Democracy. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006, pp. 110-125.

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
10
The national audit office, Rigsrevisionen, is an independent institution under the authority of parliament. It examines the soundness of state accounts and assesses whether institutions have applied funds in the best possible ways. The Rigsrevisionen may initiate investigations on its own initiative, but more often on the request of the State Auditors (Statsrevisionerne), the parliamentary audit office. The work is made public via various reports, some of which also attract quite a lot of media attention. Its work is highly respected and can lead to policy action. This was seen recently, for instance, with the report on the principles for the valuation of housing underlying the tax levied on housing values (ejendomsværdiskatten). The issue of valuation of real estate for tax purposes remains a political issue in connection with the government’s 2025 plan.

Citations:
Hentik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret, 2.
Website of national audit office: http://www.rigsrevisionen.dk/ (accessed 20 October 2017).

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
10
In 1955, Denmark became the third country in the world, after Sweden and Finland, to introduce the institution of the ombudsman. The ombudsman is appointed by parliament and the office is an independent institution. Citizens can complain to this office about decisions made by public authorities. The office, which had a staff of approximately 100 in 2014, can also initiative investigations on its own and visit other institutions. The ombudsman produces an annual report.

In 2015, there were 4,999 cases, 1,009 were investigated, 3,019 went through other forms of processing and assistance to citizens, and 832 were rejected for formal reasons. In 2016, 4,682 cases were concluded: 18.6% were rejected for formal reasons, 18.1% were investigated, and 63% led to other forms of processing and assistance to citizens. The largest proportion of complaints were about municipalities (1,226 cases), while 177 cases were directed against the Ministry of Immigration and Integration. Regarding other government ministries or agencies, the largest numbers concerned the police (132 cases), the tax administration (121 cases) and state prisons (119 cases).

In a recent special report on IT solutions in the public sector the office found in 2014 that there had been a number of cases where IT solutions had not measured up to requirements in administrative law.

Distinguished law professors have held the position of ombudsman, especially in the early years. Criticisms from the ombudsman normally leads to a change in practice or policy. In short, the ombudsman’s views have very high credibility and respect.

Citations:
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 2.

Web site of the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman: http://en.ombudsmanden.dk/ (accessed 20 October 2017).

The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman, Annual Report 2015. http://beretning2015.ombudsmanden.dk/english/annual_report_2015/ (Accessed 17 October 2016)

The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman, Annual Report 2017. http://beretning2016.ombudsmanden.dk/english/annualreport 2016/ (accessed 20 October 2017).

“Public Sector IT Solutions. Administrative Law Requirements,” http://en.ombudsmanden.dk/publikationer/public_sector_it_solutions_september_2014_/ (accessed 22 October 2014).

Media

#8

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
8
As in other democracies, the media plays an important role in Denmark. Some have argued that the media constitutes a fourth power, next to the legislative, executive and judiciary powers in modern democracies; and that journalists play the role of citizen advocates vis-à-vis public authorities. The media partly have power, through editorial decisions. Like media outlets elsewhere, the Danish media shows a tendency to make the news easier for the public to relate to by simplifying or personalizing the stories reported, and emphasizing an element of conflict. In editorial decisions about who or what is covered, there appears to be a tendency to favor top politicians and government representatives. Weaker actors, such as immigrant representatives or ethnic minorities, get less coverage, although immigration stories have become important in recent years and now form part of daily news coverage.

Apart from daily news programs, some television and radio stations offer more analytical programs where issues can be analyzed in depth. Some of these programs can be quite informative. It is worth mentioning that the education of journalists has improved in recent years.

Overall, the Danish media tend to focus more attention on national news than international news, including issues regarding the European Union. Traditional media face increasing competition from alternative news sources (e.g., news websites and social media) and their financing is declining due to falling advertisement revenue. Policymakers are increasingly using social media (e.g., Twitter) to make policy statements.

Media access to internal government documents has been a sensitive issue because of changed legislation regarding the access to such documents (offentlighedsloven). The new law entered into force 1 January 2014. The two aspects of the new law most criticized were the possibility of the government denying access to internal documents exchanged between a minister and experts (Art. 24) and between a minister and a member of the parliament (art. 27). The law will be evaluated after its third year.

There is currently a debate about the funding of public TV and radio – through a near-universal license fee, irrespective of public TV and radio consumption. Some actors argue that this public service should be paid through taxes, while others argue that the main operator, Danmarks Radio, goes well beyond public service and that its support should be reduced.

Citations:
Peter Munk Christiansen og Lise Togeby, Magten i Danmark. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

“Fakta om ny offentlighedslov,” http://www.politiko.dk/nyheder/fakta-om-ny-offentlighedslov (accessed 23 October 2014).

“Ny offentlighedslov – ny praksis for journalister,” http://www.aabenhedstinget.dk/ny-offentlighedslov-ny-praksis-for-journalister-2/ (accessed 23 October 2014).

Jørgen Grønnegård Christiansen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske system. 4. udg. Chapter 7. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Parties and Interest Associations

#4

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
8
Four of the political parties represented in the Danish parliament, the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Social Liberal Party and the Conservative Party have existed for more than 100 years and have all regularly taken part in governments. Since they are either in power or have the prospect of being in the next government, they have a strong interest in proposing plausible and coherent policies, and indeed it is fair to say that they do so. This is reinforced by the fact that most governments are minority governments and the country’s tradition of consensus-driven policies. There is a strong tradition for “broad” compromises and agreements and, therefore, daily politics is less partisan than seen in some other countries.
Newer parties, including the second biggest party currently in the parliament, the Danish People’s Party and the new party The Alternative, may be more tempted to propose popular, even populist, policies. However, parties that have the ambition to be included in a future government have to moderate their views. The Danish People’s Party provided the necessary parliamentary support for the previous liberal-conservative minority government (2009 to 2011) and the current three-party government, and has managed, in this way, to promote some of their core issues (e.g., elderly and immigration policy). Similarly, the Socialist People’s Party for the first time became part of the government in 2011, although it had to leave the government in January 2014 because of internal disagreements over the policies pursued by the coalition.

The political parties have a membership structure and are democratic organizations. Parties have annual meetings where policies are determined and leaders elected. They are open to the press and covered widely.

The economic crisis has been a strong structural determinant of government policies in recent years, irrespective of political colors. Since the influx of immigrants and asylum-seekers in the summer of 2015, immigration policy has become one of the biggest issues in Danish politics. Currently, even the Social Democratic Party supports efforts to restrict immigration.

Citations:
Antal medlemmer i partigrupperne, http://www.ft.dk/Folketinget/findMedlem/Mandatfordelingen.aspx (accessed 10 October 2015)

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske system. 4. udg., Chapter 3. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Websites of the Danish political parties currently represented in the parliament (Folketinget) in order of representation after the June 2015 election:
The Social Democratic Party: www.socialdemokratiet.dk
The Danish People’s Party: www.danskfolkepart.dk
The Liberal Party: www.venstre.dk
The Unity List: www.enhedslisten.dk
The Liberal Alliance: http://liberalalliance.dk
The Alternative: http://alternativet.dk/
The Social Liberal Party: www.radikale.dk
The Socialist People’s Party: www.sf.dk
The Conservative Party: www.konservative.dk

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
9
Interest organizations play an important role in Danish politics. Policies proposed by the major interest organizations are of course important for the group they represent. They may not be quite as important, however, for society at large, or for the collective interest. That is why the government must aggregate the views of various interest organizations.

Given the corporatist tradition in Denmark, the major interest organizations are regularly involved in policymaking. The most recent examples include initiatives focusing on the employment of immigrants and life-long learning. This tends to educate them to moderate their policy proposals. Interest groups know they will lose influence if they propose policies that are seen as unreasonable; they realize that they have an interest in getting things to work. The trade unions also learned at some point that demanding very high raises in salaries will produce inflation and job losses and thus be counterproductive. They too have a tradition of being quite responsible and negotiating in good faith.

Citations:
Peter Munk Christiansen og Lise Togeby, Magten i Danmark. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2005.

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (eds.). Det demokratiske system. 3. udgave. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2013.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
There is a long corporatist tradition in Denmark, which includes non-economic interest associations. The major interest organizations are often members of committees and commissions preparing legislation. They provide information for the government and legitimacy for the policies adopted, thereby facilitating implementation. Some civil society organizations may find it more difficult than business organizations to get access to the government.

Despite occasional criticism of the role of experts and commissions, they remain important.

When laws are passed without having been prepared through corporatist committees, the interest organizations have to lobby more – by making direct contact with civil servants and politicians – so as to influence policies, possibly arranging demonstrations. The fact remains, however, that the administration needs input from outside when legislation is prepared. In other words, there is a common interest in continuous dialog.

Citations:
Peter Munk Christiansen og Lise Togeby, Magten i Danmark. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det Demokratiske system. 4. udg. 2016.
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