Danish politicians want expedited rule change to close loophole for new parties

Several parliamentary parties in Denmark have called for new rules regarding the so-called ‘citizens’ declarations’ to be implemented as soon as possible.

Danish politicians want expedited rule change to close loophole for new parties
Party leaders in a television debate following the June 5th general election. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The declarations are required for newly-formed political parties to qualify for elections, but established parties have demanded a rule change after two groups, Stram Kurs and Klaus Riskær Pedersen, were able to take advantage of a loophole that made the nomination process far easier than it is intended to be, Berlingske reports.

The two parties – neither of which were voted into parliament – qualified to run in last week’s general election by automatically registering thousands of email addresses online, thereby receiving the declarations digitally.

That made the process significantly easier than the two declarations sent physically at least seven days apart, as has traditionally been the case, with the intention of electoral law to providing ‘thinking time’ for people who nominate parties, according to the report.

Although the two parties – one of which, Stram Kurs, created considerable controversy with its extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric — did not end up being voted into parliament, their nomination entitles them to millions of kroner in state funding for political parties.

Danish People’s Party (DF) parliamentary group leader Peter Skaarup said the issue must be resolved as soon as possible.

“This is an urgent question. It is simply not right to reward people who cheat the system,” Skaarup said.

“We cannot have a legal situation which rewards people who don’t care about the law and can get onto voting cards and thereby millions in taxpayers’ money when they don’t get enough votes,” he added.

A suspension of the digital system for nomination was backed by two of Skaarup’s opposite numbers from other parties, Mette Abildgaard (Conservative) and Jacob Mark (Socialist People’s Party).

“I very much regret that we must find ourselves in this situation before finally wanting to do something. So I hope the political will is there to see whether something can be done here and now,” Abildgaard said.

Mark called the issue “reprehensible”.

“It’s completely reprehensible that the system, and therefore the people, can be cheated. I think we as politicians are obliged to close this hole as soon as possible,” he said.

“Otherwise, we risk a whole load of parties running on a false premise. As such, this is about the integrity of and trust in democracy,” he added.

The decision to implement digital citizens’ declarations was passed into law by parliament in 2013, and came into effect in 2016.

In March 2019, parliament agreed to develop a new procedure which prevented the loophole from being used. But that will not come into effect until the beginning of next year.

READ ALSO: Should Denmark make it harder for new parties to enter elections?

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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