Puneet Varma (Editor)

Social Democrats (Denmark)

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Leader  Mette Frederiksen
Founded  1871
Deputy Leader  Mogens JensenFrank Jensen
Headquarters  Vester Voldgade 961552 Copenhagen, Denmark
Student wing  Frit Forum - Social Democratic Students of Denmark
Youth wing  Social Democratic Youth of Denmark (DSU)

The Social Democrats (Danish: Socialdemokraterne or Socialdemokratiet), is a social-democratic political party in Denmark. It was the major coalition partner in government from the 2011 parliamentary election, with then-party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt as Prime Minister. After the 2015 parliamentary election, the party is no longer in government, though it is still the largest party in the Danish parliament, the Folketing, with 47 of 179 seats. Helle Thorning-Schmidt withdrew as party leader on the night of the election as a direct consequence of the loss of government control, and she was succeeded on 28 June 2015 by the former vice leader, Mette Frederiksen.


Founded by Louis Pio in 1871, the party first entered the Folketing in 1884. By the early 20th century it had become the party with the largest representation in the Folketing, a distinction it would hold for 77 years. It first formed a government in 1924 under Thorvald Stauning, the longest-serving Danish Prime Minister of the 20th century. During Stauning's government, the Social Democrats exerted a profound influence on Danish society, laying the foundation of the Danish welfare state.

From 2002 to 2016 the party used the name Socialdemokraterne in some contexts.

A member of the Party of European Socialists (PES), the Social Democrats have three MEPs in the European Parliament.


Since its foundation the lemma of the party has been "Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood", and these values are still described as central in the party program. In the political program of the party these values are described as being consistent with a focus on solidarity with the poorest and social welfare to those who need it, with individual responsibility in relation to other members in society, and with an increased involvement in the European political project.

Political leadership

The leader of the party is Mette Frederiksen. She succeeded Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who stepped down after the left bloc's defeat in the 2015 General Election. Deputy leaders are Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen; and Mogens Jensen. The secretary general is Henrik Dam Kristensen, the party secretary is Lars Midtiby and the political speaker is Magnus Heunicke.

In the Cabinet of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the party had ten ministers including the Prime Minister.

Founding and History through the 20th century

The party was founded in 1871 by Louis Pio, Harald Brix og Paul Geleff. The goal was to organize the emerging working class on a democratic and socialist basis. The industrialization of Denmark had begun in the mid 19th century and a period of rapid urbanization had led to an emerging class of urban workers. The social democratic movement emerged from the desire to give this group political rights and representation in parliament.

In 1876 the Party held an annual conference, adopting the first party manifesto. The stated policy was that:

"The Danish Social Democratic Labour Party works in its national form, but is convinced of the international nature of the labour movement and ready to sacrifice everything and fulfill all obligations to provide: Freedom, equality and brotherhood among all nations

In 1884 the Social Democracy party (Socialdemokratiet), as it was called then, had their first two members of parliament elected, P. Holm and Chr. Hørdum.

In the 1924 parliamentary elections the Social democratic party won the majority with 36.6 percent of the vote, and its first government was put in place with Thorvald Stauning as prime minister. The same year he appointed the world's first female minister Nina Bang, nine years after women's suffrage had been given in Denmark. Stauning stayed in power until his death in 1942, his party laying the foundations for the Danish welfare state, based on a close collaboration between labor unions and the government.

In January 1933 Stauning's government entered into what was then the most extensive settlement yet in Danish politics — the Kanslergade settlement (Danish: Kanslergadeforliget) — with the liberal party Venstre. The settlement, which was named after Stauning's apartment in Kanslergade in Copenhagen, included extensive agricultural subsidies and reforms of the legislation and administration in the social sector. In 1935, Stauning was reelected with the famous slogan "Stauning or Chaos".

Stauning's second cabinet lasted until the Nazi occupation of Denmark in 1940, when the cabinet was widened to include all political parties, called the Cabinet of Thorvald Stauning III, and the Danish government pursued a collaborative policy with the German occupiers.

Through the 1940s and until 1972 Denmark was governed by the following Social Democratic prime ministers.

Social Democrat Prime Ministers

1939 – 1955: Hans Hedtoft (Prime minister 1947-55) (Alsing Andersen as de facto leader in 1941-1945)

1955 – 1960: H. C. Hansen (Prime minister 1955-60)

1960 – 1962: Viggo Kampmann (Prime minister 1960-62)

1962 – 1972: Jens Otto Krag (Prime minister 1962-68, 1971–72)(Erling Dinesen as de facto leader from October 1972 to September 1973)

1972 – 1987: Anker Jørgensen (Prime minister 1972-73, 1975–82)

In government 1993–2001

The Social Democrats' social policy through the 1990s and continuing in the 21st century involved a significant redistribution of income and the maintenance of a large state apparatus with collectively financed core public services such as public healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Social Democrat-led coalition governments (the Cabinets of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen I, II, III, IV) implemented the system known as flexicurity (flexibility and social security), mixing strong Scandinavian unemployment benefits with deregulated employment laws, making it easier for employers to fire and rehire people in order to encourage economic growth and reduce unemployment.

The Cabinets of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen maintained a parliamentary majority during the period from 1993 to 2001 by virtue of their support from the Socialist People's Party and the Red-Green Alliance.

Towards the end of the 1990s, a trade surplus of 30 billion kroner (USD 4.9 billion) turned into a deficit. To combat this, the government increased taxes, limiting private consumption. The 1998 initiative, which was dubbed the Whitsun Packet (Danish: Pinsepakken) from the season it was issued, was not universally popular with the electorate, which may have been a factor in the Social Democrats' defeat in the 2001 parliamentary election.

In opposition 2001–2011

After being defeated by the Liberal Party in the 2001 election, the party chairmanship went to former finance and foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft. Following another defeat in the January 2005 election, Lykketoft announced his resignation as party leader, and at an extraordinary congress on 12 March, it was decided that all members of the party would cast votes in an election of a new party leader. The two contenders for the leadership represented the two wings in the party, with Helle Thorning-Schmidt being viewed as centrist and Frank Jensen being viewed as slightly more left-wing. On 12 April 2005 Helle Thorning-Schmidt was elected as the new leader.

In government 2011–2015

At the 2011 elections the Social Democrats gained 44 seats in parliament, the lowest number since 1953. Nonetheless the party succeeded in establishing a minority government with the People's Socialist Party, and the Social-Liberal party.

The incumbent centre-right coalition led by the Liberal Party lost power to a centre-left coalition led by the Social Democrats making Helle Thorning-Schmidt the country's first female Prime Minister. The Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party became part of the three-party government. The new parliament convened on 4 October. The government has rolled back anti-immigration legislation enacted by the previous government, and passed a tax-reform with support from the liberalist-conservative opposition. The tax reform raised the top tax threshold, effectively lowering tax rates for the wealthiest citizens. The aim of the tax reform has been to increase labor output to fend off a projected labor shortage within the next decades. The stated goal is to entice Danes to work more in order to compensate for the decreasing workforce, by lowering tax on wages and gradually lowering welfare payments to those outside of the labor market to increase the economic benefit of working relative to receiving welfare.

Because of the government's minority status and because of its dependency on the support of the Liberal party, the government had to jettison many of the policies that the Social Democrat - Socialist Peoples party coalition had given during the campaign. Although critics have accused the government of breaking its promises, other studies argue that it has already accomplished half of its stated goals, blaming instead poor public relations strategies for its increasingly negative public image.

The government has pursued a centrist compromise agenda, building several reforms with support from both sides of the parliament. This has caused friction with the supporting Red-Green Alliance, which has been kept outside of influence.

In opposition 2015-present

In the 2015 election, the Social Democrats gained seats and became the biggest party in the parliament again, yet lost government because the parties of the Right had a majority.

Electoral performance

The Social Democrats governed Denmark for most of the 20th century, with a few intermissions, such as the Conservative-led government of Poul Schlüter in the 1980s. It continued to be Denmark's largest party until 2001 when Anders Fogh Rasmussen's liberal Venstre Party gained a landslide victory, becoming the largest party and forming a centre-right government.

Leaders of the Social Democrats

  • 1871 – 1872: Louis Pio
  • 1872 – 1873: Carl Würtz
  • 1874 – 1875: Ernst Wilhelm Klein
  • 1875 – February 1877: Louis Pio
  • 1877 February – July 1878: Chresten Hørdum
  • 1878 February – July: A.C. Meyer
  • 1878 – 1879: Saxo W. Wiegell
  • 1880 – 1882: Chresten Hørdum
  • 1882 – 1910: Peter Christian Knudsen
  • 1910 – 1939: Thorvald Stauning (Prime minister 1924-26, 1929–42)
  • 1939 – 1955: Hans Hedtoft (Prime minister 1947-55) (Alsing Andersen as de facto leader in 1941-1945)
  • 1955 – 1960: H. C. Hansen (Prime minister 1955-60)
  • 1960 – 1962: Viggo Kampmann (Prime minister 1960-62)
  • 1962 – 1972: Jens Otto Krag (Prime minister 1962-68, 1971–72) (Erling Dinesen as de facto leader from October 1972 to September 1973)
  • 1973 – 1987: Anker Jørgensen (Prime minister 1972-73, 1975–81)
  • 1987 – 1992: Svend Auken
  • 1992 – 2002: Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (Prime minister 1993-2001)
  • 2002 – 2005: Mogens Lykketoft
  • 2005 – 2015: Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Prime minister 2011-2015)
  • 2015 –  : Mette Frederiksen
  • International affiliations

    The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International between 1923 and 1940. It is now a member of the Socialist International, an association of socialist and social democratic parties. The Social Democrats are also a member of the Party of European Socialists, while the party's MEPs sit in the Socialists & Democrats group.


    Social Democrats (Denmark) Wikipedia