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This friday, journalists got a welcome break from the Danish agurketid – literally ’cucumber time’ (from agurk cucumber + tid time) – the ”silly season” in summer where nothing really happens and newspaper employees spend their time making ice-cream tests and interviewing dogs… So, what happened? Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the Danish statsminister (Prime Minister), went live to announce that there is going to be a folketingsvalg (general election) on September 15th.
Although Denmark has a Queen (Margrethe II), she is mostly a symbolic figure nowadays, and the real ruler of the country is the PM and his or her regering (government). Together with the opposition they form the Folketinget (Parliament, literally ’House of the People’) in Copenhagen.
General elections are held every 4th year. However, picking the exact date is up to the PM. In that way (s)he can consult the meningsmålinger (polls) before leaving his or her fate in the hands of the population. It also means that there is a lot of mystery and speculation going on in advance of each valg (election), with media people competing to ”get into the mind” of the PM and guess the right date. This is important, as many people have to act quickly upon the actual announcement: valglokaler (polling stations) have to be prepared, the tv stations must reschedule their programme, and so forth.
At any time, there are 179 working folketingsmedlemmer (Members of Parliament, folketingsmedlem in the singular). 2 of them come from the Faroe Islands, and 2 come from Greenland. (Those countries still form a political union with the state of Denmark.)
On September 15th, any Danish statsborger (subject) who is 18 years or older, and who is also living in Denmark (or Greenland or the Faroe Islands), is entitled to vote. The Big Question is, of course, which stemmeseddel (ballot paper) to pick?
The present government is made up by the partier (parties) Venstre and De Konservative. Together with Liberal Alliance and Dansk Folkeparti they belong to the so-called ”right” side of Danish politics. On the ”left” side we find Socialdemokratiet, Socialistisk Folkeparti and Enhedslisten. The party De Radikale is usually somewhere in the middle.
While some people give a lot of kudos to the present Venstre-De Konservative government, other people are more sceptical, criticizing things like its frequent collaboration with Dansk Folkeparti, which is viewed by the other parties as taking a rather strict stance on immigration. However, the opposition alternative, a government formed by the parties Socialdemokratiet and Socialistisk Folkeparti, has certainly attracted its amount of criticism as well.
With the polls oscillating between the present PM, Venstre politician Lars Løkke Rasmussen, and the opposition’s PM candidate, Socialdemokratiet politician Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Danish journalists are going to have plenty of work, both before and after September 15th.