DAILY BRIEFING
Valget

Jun. 10 - Denmark's E.U. parliament elections will be held on Sunday. I've been meaning to use that as a springboard into Danish politics. Here's my chance.

First of all, the Danish parliament isn't called parliament. It's called Folketing, which literally means, "Peoples Thing." (Danish; English.) There are 179 elected representatives in the Peoples Thing. The major political parties and their count in the Peoples Thing are as follows: Liberals (57), the Social Democrats (52), the Danish People's Party (22), the Conservatives (16), the Socialist People's Party (12), the Social Liberals (9), the Unity List (Red-Green Alliance, 4), and the Christian People's Party (4). The last three representatives, each from their own party, come from Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

I enjoy competitive sports, so I've been trying to get a handle on the Danish political compass for the last 15 months. Like prepositions and Mexican Food, however, Danish ideologies don't map well to American translation. Venstre, for example, or "the Liberals" (venstre is Danish for "left"), are the biggest party in the Peoples Thing. The current prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is from this party. As Danish politics go, it's a conservative party—about as far to the right as you can go in the Danish mainstream, which is why the name of their party means "left." I don't know if they're more conservative than the Conservative party, but frankly it wouldn't surprise me if the Conservative party were to the left of the "Red-Green Coalition" (I assume that's Red as in communist and Green as in environmental, but for all I know the party could be built around the organizing principle of Christmas).

Until I speak better Danish there's no possible way for me to understand the subtle (or even obvious) differences between the major parties, since the political parties tend not to bother putting information out in English—Danish ballots are, after all, in Danish, and if I can't vote, what the hell do they care what I think?

Now let's move on to the "European" government.

The EU Parliament has 786 members. The Danish delegation is a mere16 strong. (By comparison, Germany sends 99, France 86, Italy 87, Sweden 22, Greece 25, Estonia 6, and Malta 4.) You can see how all the countries break down here, and the members of Denmark's delegation are listed here.

I'm not entirely sure what exactly EU parliamentarians are elected to do, other than Brussefy. The media haven't been covering the elections with much enthusiasm. If it weren't for the occassional bit of direct mail and the posters all over the city, one could be forgiven for not even knowing there was an election taking place. Danes don't seem very keen on the EU in general, and the Danish electorate can usually be relied upon to bitch-slap the EU about as often as the UK does.

The Danes were occupied by Germany during WWII and some of their wariness about the EU seems to be residual wariness of Germany—of the German conviction that, when you get right down to it, they know what's best for everyone and ought to be trusted to look after everyone's own best interests for them. Germany's the geopolitical equivalent of the IT-guy on SNL whose help always begins with a monosyllabic command: "Move!"

One direct mail piece arrived in our mailbox today. "Gitte Seeberg," its cover announces, "the best for you and Europe." (It's in Danish, obviously.) That's above her photograph. Below it, we're informed she's with the Conservative party, whose EU slogan is apparently "A Europe in Balance." Like most political slogans it means absolutely nothing, but it's interesting to see slogans that say nothing about a continent rather than a particular country.

Inside the little brochure, we learn that Gitte thinks more education gives more jobs (photo: a woman working at a computer); that working closer together gives greater security (photo: several Danish soldiers standing at attention); that a better environment gives a better quality of living (photo: a pretty brook running through a verdant marsh); and that sharpened demand gives better animal welfare (photo: a fish-eye lens closeup of three piglets standing in some hay).

The back of the brochure offers a little bio, two pictures of Gitte, and the address of her website. Both of these pictures are more flattering than the albino-like creature featured on the front. In one photo she's toting a little girl on her back and they're both all smiles—but no mention is made anywhere in the brochure of Gitte having any family. Maybe she just likes giving piggy-back rides? Who knows. (I know, actually; you can learn on her website that the child is her daughter, Veronika, age 3.)

That was probably a boring Almanac, but I think it's important to offer some actual substance from time to time, and I can now write freely about Danish politics and link back to this post as a reference.

(Valget means "the vote," and is obviously the word of the day.)

* * *

Tara Lipinski turns 23 today. She shares her birthday with F. Lee Bailey (1933), Maurice Sendak (1928), Judy Garland (1922), and Saul Bellow (1915).

Happy Thursday!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

[close window]
[Daily Briefing Archive]