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ELECTION 2019

Danish parliament speaker to leave post after party’s election defeat

Pia Kjærsgaard, the current speaker of the Danish parliament and former leader of the Danish People’s Party (DF), will not continue in the role.

Danish parliament speaker to leave post after party’s election defeat
Pia Kjærsgaard. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

Kjærsgaard confirmed the conclusion of her spell as speaker on social media.

“Thank you and goodbye to the position as speaker of parliament. Many have asked since the election whether I will continue as speaker. I will not. Power has shifted,” she wrote on Facebook.

“I have held this honourable position for four years and have enjoyed every day. We should all be proud of our well-functioning representative system,” she added.

Kjærsgaard, who led the anti-immigration DF from 1995 until 2012, was re-elected in the vote last week, and will continue to represent in parliament her party, which was reduced from 37 to 16 seats.

The Christiansborg legislature had been expected to select a new speaker following the election, since a majority is required to vote for the speaker.

That support was unlikely to be given to the occasionally outspoken Kjærsgaard, with the left-of centre ‘red bloc’ of parties now holding more than half of the seats in parliament.

READ ALSO: Danish parliament speaker shunned by Icelandic MPs

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GOVERNMENT

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

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