Jan. 26 - I've been a little slow on the uptake, as they. Last week the Danish Government, aswim in heady popularity, called for elections. I've neglected to mention it until now. I apologize to those of you who've come to expect nearly spontaneous analysis of Danish cultural events from me. (On the other hand, you must be getting very accustomed to disappointment. I still haven't even apologized for neglecting to mention the opening of the new opera two weekends ago. Rather than apologize, I'll just take advantage of this rapidly expanding parenthetical aside to inform you that Copenhagen's new opera opened two Saturday's ago. It's a big, beautiful new landmark and, as is the case with most opera houses, its external appearance is wildly disproportionate to its internal appeal.)
The elections are scheduled for February 8. No word yet on international observers.
One of the problems with understanding a foreign country's current domestic politics is that anyone who explains it to you is going to have a built-in bias. It may be a tiny little bias that affects little more than word choice, or it may be a great big throbbing bias that obliterates everything for miles around.
When you get down to it, though, the only way to really understand what's going on is to watch it as closely as possible. I've been trying to do that, but my understanding has been limited (some might say blessedly so) by my inadequate grasp of the language.
I don't have the time to assemble a comprehensive primer on the Danish electoral system (but here's an English-language reference from the parliament itself), but it seems to go something like this:
The country is divided into three geographic regions, not including Greenland or the Faroe Islands, and these regions are subsequently divided into a total of 17 constituencies. Each constituency is ranked according to size, shape, color, density, and solubility, and these rankings are then used to determine how many of the 135 available parliamentary seats will be representing each constituency. An additional 40 seats are divvied up as compensatory seats for constituencies that may be feeling badly after the elections (along with a year's supply of Turtle Wax). The votes in each consituency are counted and divided by seven divisors (which are not uniters), and the results are placed into a grid and arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. The parties with the biggest numbers in the grid will get representation in parliament by candidates selected either by the electorate or the parties themselves, depending.
In the end, the elected representatives in parliament, grouped by party, arrange themselves into coalitions. The biggest coalition forms a government, which then aggravates Danes until the peak of their popularity, at which point they call for new elections.
Here's a brief refresher from a previous Almanac in which I described what I could of the Danish political system:
First of all, the Danish parliament isn't called parliament. It's called Folketing, which literally means, "People's 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.The current government is comprised of the Liberals, Conservatives, Danish People's Party, and the Christian Democrats. The opposition coalition consists of the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals, the Socialist People's Party, and the Unity List.
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 People's 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).
This election isn't expected to change much, which is why it's being held in the first place. This is, however, the first election in which blogs are part of the action, and here's a Danish metablog that's trying to cover the whole scene.
Also, "The Spin Site" (in Danish) offers a page dedicated to Danish articles on the web having to do with political spin in Denmark.
I'm out of time right now, but will try to compile a list of English-language websites dealing with current Danish politics for reference in tomorrow's Almanac. And maybe I'll update the Denmark for Americans page to include a paragraph on Danish politics that links to them.
One last thing before I sign off, though: you'll read and hear a lot about the "right-wing" government currently in power. While the ruling coalition is certainly to the right of the opposition coalition, that's like saying Howard Dean is to the right of Karl Marx. An ad critical of the current government that I noticed in a newspaper yesterday for example, cited the fact that some elderly folks in Denmark only have state-funded housekeepers come by to clean their homes once every three weeks. The implication was that this was laughably inadequate. I'm going to try to put Molli down and take a nap now—wake me when the American Republican Party starts calling for taxpayer-funded housekeeping for seniors. . .
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January 26 is Republic Day in India, and dancers from all over the nation gather in New Delhi every year on this day to dance in the huge National Arena and all along a five mile parade route. On January 26, 1979, "Le Freak" was on the top of the American charts.
It's nice to think there's a connection.
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It's Eddie Van Halen's birthday, but (alas) that's not a national holiday yet. Also celebrating are Wayne Gretzky (1961), Ellen DeGeneres (1958), Jack Youngblood (1950), Gene Siskel (1946), Bob Uecker (1935), Jules Feiffer (1929), Eartha Kitt (1928), Paul Newman (1925), and Douglas MacArthur (1880).
Besides the aformentioned Indian holiday, today is also Australia Day in Australia, of all goddam places.
Happy Hump Day!
© 2005, The Moron's Almanac