52 Danish politicians to get bumper pension after election failure

52 members of the Danish parliament were not re-elected in last week’s general election, but can look forward to a generous allowance as they seek pastures new.

52 Danish politicians to get bumper pension after election failure
The Liberal Alliance party saw its number of seats cut by nine at last week's election. Photo: Philip Davali / Ritzau Scanpix

A total of 70 million kroner will ensure the ex-MPs will not be empty-handed over the next two years via the so-called eftervederlag, a form of post-employment allowance.

The figure comes from a review by media Fagbladet 3F of payments to members of parliament who were not reelected or left the legislature for other reasons during the last election cycle.

The 52 former MPs will receive a monthly payment of 56,494 kroner for the next two years – amounting to 1.35 million kroner per person over the period.

“I don’t think there’s any other place on the labour market with comparably favourable conditions,” Roger Buch, a researcher at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, told Ritzau.

“I think it would be reasonable to discuss whether politicians should get conditions so much better than those of the public,” he added.

If the politicians find new jobs during the two-year period in which they receive the allowance, the new salary is deducted from the allowance.

But whether those deductions are implemented in practice is questionable, according to Buch.

“As far as I’m aware, there are no checks on this. It’s up to individual politicians to give notice if they get another job,” he said to Ritzau.

“This is interesting to compare with other systems of checks in society. If you receive social welfare payments, there are many systems which monitor whether you have gained employment,” he added.

The 2019 general election saw a large swing in seats, resulting in a relatively high number of politicians failing to achieve re-election, including high profile figures from Liberal Alliance and the Danish People’s Party.

Anders Samuelsen, as a former minister and leader of Liberal Alliance, will receive a special allowance for ex-ministers for 18 months after losing his seat, according to Ritzau’s report.

That means Samuelsen stands to earn up to 2.3 million kroner from the Danish state through allowances over the next two years, the news agency writes.

Liberal Alliance told Fagbladet 3F the party did not wish to comment on the allowances.

READ ALSO: Voter turnout increases in Denmark's underprivileged areas, bucking national trend

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Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts

Transfer of power between governments can be associated with antagonism, ill feeling and tension. In Denmark, it is accompanied by the exchange of gifts.

Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts
Mette Frederiksen hands Lars Løkke Rasmussen his new cycling jersey. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The quirky tradition was continued on Thursday as Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen took over from predecessor Lars Løkke Rasmussen as head of government.

Tradition in Danish politics dictates that all outgoing ministers, including the prime minister, exchange gifts with their successors on the day portfolios officially change hands.

The gifts, often referred to in Danish as drillegaver (‘teasing gifts’), are normally chosen with an element of humour in mind, while not forgetting to reference political opposition.

As the keys to the PM’s office were exchanged at Christiansborg Palace, the seat of parliament on Thursday, Rasmussen handed Frederiksen a pair of gloves and blue trousers from a set of overalls.

“I’m now handing over a Denmark in top form. And that must be looked after. I know will you do that, Mette,” Rasmussen said.

“One of the keys to achieving that is for us Danes to pull on our working gear,” he added.

In response, Frederiksen gifted Rasmussen, known for his enthusiasm for bicycle racing, a polka-dotted cycling jersey, making reference to his tendency to “break away from the pack” during the election campaign.

“I hope you will be spending a lot more time cycling in future,” Frederiksen joked as she gave her predecessor the jersey.

Also noting that she had probably not seen the last of the Liberal (Venstre) party leader in politics, the new PM had warm words of tribute for Rasmussen, who has served two separate terms as the head of Denmark’s government, from 2009-11 and 2015-19.

She thanked him for a being a decent opponent and for “everything you have done for Denmark”.

Rasmussen, who was not short of joking remarks himself, said he “had a habit of handing over the keys to a Social Democrat”.

After losing the 2011 election, he gave then-Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt his government’s budget repurposed as a handbag, while Thorning-Schmidt gave Rasmussen a bus ticket.

Roles were reversed in 2015, when Rasmussen, having regained power, gave Thorning-Schmidt a selfie stick and received festival tickets in return.

The Danish tradition of giving gifts while handing over power is a modern one, having gradually emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Transition of power used to be very formal,” DR’s political commentator Bent Stuckert told Politiken in 2011. That is evidenced by the below video, which shows Anker Jørgensen making way for Poul Hartling in 1973.

The 2019 version, coming at the end of a long negotiation period to form government, continued Denmark’s overtly friendly approach to handing over the keys to power.

READ ALSO: Here is Denmark's new Social Democrat government