Week 30: Innocence.
I went for playfulness. The photo shows some of the lockers at the Copenhagen Experimentarium which plays with shapes and ways of presenting numbers.
Week 31: Open theme.
Back to work. Opening the computer. Waiting for the updates to be installed.
Week 32: Travelling.
Passengers waiting for the train at Svendborg Station.
Shadows: The Haus der Kunst in Munich is one of the few surviving buildings from the Nazi era. Today it is used as a venue for contemporary art exhibitions. So the photo both have the shadows cast on a hot summer day and the shadows cast by a dark period in European history.
My Leipzig-Munich photos are here
Summer: You could probably take a similar photo in every season of the year but still: The streets off the beaten track of Copenhagen are a treat during the summer. And the light is different in July.
Time to catch up on the project.
Week 24: “Coruscate” – meaning something like glittering. This was a desperation attempt where the reflections in the river had to make do.
Week 25: “Hats”. Knut Marlowe and Bruno Holmes were on the case.
Week 26: “Frames”. I went for the scaffolding put up when the house next to where I live was having balconies fitted:
Week 27: Open theme. So I went indoors and took this picture of the DR Concert Hall 15 minutes before the begin of the Gilberto Gil-Caetano Veloso concert.
Some notes about the new government and its programme:
1. Kristian Jensen was booted upwards as Foreign Minister. Yes, it is a traditionally prestigious portfolio but the Foreign Ministry these days plays second fiddle to the Prime Minister’s Office and despite being a member of the two central government committees, he will be abroad for much of the time. Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Claus Hjort Frederiksen will form the central axis in the new government.
2. The government programme is characterized by the government’s status as a single-party government which will have to seek support for its policies in the Folketing on a case-by-case basis. It is fairly close to the Liberal Party’s platform but also unspecific on a number of central issues. We still have to see how the government will turn the programme into specific bills.
3. I have a professional interest in social and employment policies so let me note that the old Social Affairs portfolio has been effectively dismantled and distributed on the Employment, Immigration, Interior, Health and Business portfolios. The Employment portfolio, incidentally, is now very similar to the UK Department for Work of Pensions (with the new minister having the task of proposing and implementing something related to the UK Universal Credit system).
4. The low share of women ministers has been noted. The Danish Liberals always were a very masculine party – you could even argue that the party culture under Lars Løkke Rasmussen has a laddish element to it – even if it has had a number of strong female politicians from the 1950s onward. It remains to be seen if this batch includes a Helga Petersen, Nathalie Lind or Britta Schall Holberg of the 2010s.
And we have a government: The first round of negotiations after the election showed that a four-party majority coalition was off the table and the second round did away with all other coalitions leaving us with a Liberal single-party government based on 34 of the 179 seats in the Folketing. In quantitative terms, Løkke Rasmussen’s second government will be the weakest since Poul Hartling’s 1973-1975 government.
Based on Friday’s media reports, EU policy appears to have been the breaking point in the negotiations between the Liberals and the Danish People’s Party with the Liberals wanting to comply openly with EU rules about free movement but the election campaign has shown that several dimensions are at play here with the four “Blue” parties positioned differently on each dimension. This become even more complicated when we add the parties in the “Red” bloc.
Consider these cases based on my impression of the campaign and the 2011-2015 term:
- The classic socio-economic dimension: Red Greens – SF – Social Democrats – Alternative – Social Liberals – Danish People’s Party – Liberals – Conservatives – Liberal Alliance
- The immigration policy dimension (which also covers environment) (pro to contra): Red Greens – Social Liberals – Alternative – SF – Social Democrats – Liberal Alliance – Conservatives – Liberals – Danish People’s Party
- The EU dimension (pro to contra): Social Liberals – Social Democrats – Alternative (?) – SF – Conservatives – Liberals – Liberal Alliance – Danish People’s Party – Red Greens
- The welfare state retrenchment (or reform) dimension: Red Greens – Danish People’s Party – SF – Alternative – Social Democrats – Liberals – Conservatives – Social Liberals – Liberal Alliance
The best way to describe this is to say that the Liberals are somehow close to the centre on most dimensions and they are the party which is the closest to the intersection of all four dimensions. So we should expect a Liberal government to have the largest degree of freedom in creating parliamentary majorities, provided that the other parties accept the patchwork nature of cooperation in the coming term.
One final consideration: Liberal single-party minority governments have traditionally performed poorly. Niels Neergaard’s second term in office 1920-1924 ended in chaos with regard to economic policy (a major banking crisid did nothing to help Mr. Neergaard) while Th. Madsen-Mygdal (1926-1929), Knud Kristensen (1945-1947) and Poul Hartling (1973-1975) all overplayed their cards on the parliamentary arena and lost power, even despite clear electoral wins for Kristensen and Hartling. Lars Løkke Rasmussen is probably a shrewder negotiator than any of his four predecessors1, even if he is unpopular among voters so the systemic factor (the Liberals at the intersection) and the individual factor (Løkke Rasmussen) could play in the new government’s favour.
- Erik Eriksen led a Liberal-Conservative coalition as did Anders Fogh Rasmussen [↩]
There are many ways of summarizing the 2015 election. One way is to look at the size of the various political blocs in a historical perspective.
The “five blocs” division was one I made back in 1988 when I wrote my MA thesis on the development of the Danish political system. The problem was if the fragmentation of the system post-1973 had also led to a political polarization (answer: no) and one of the indicators was the development of support to centrist and extremist groups of parties. As we can see from the figure, the 2015 election is in fact characterized by a swing to the extreme right – but we should also observe a caveat: The extreme right group historically includes a number of anti-state parties but it is a bit of a hodge-podge. We have everything from anti-regulation Georgeists and libertarian Liberal Alliance over right-wing populists (Progress Party and the Danish People’s Party) to outright anti-democrats (e.g. the National Socialists and Peasant Party of the 1930s and 1940s) in this group.
Still, in 2015 both Liberal Alliance and the Danish People’s Party – different as they are – are outside the inner circle of parties actively seeking government office and as such they pose challenges to the established right-wing. We can also see that the losses suffered by the Liberals and the Conservatives put the core bourgeois parties back in 1973 and 1977 territory.
I’m not sure how to code The Alternative but opted to place it in the group of centre parties along with the Social Liberals. In that case, the political centre is more or less stable.
Traditionally, Danish parties have been divided into “Workers” and “Bourgeois” parties – with the Social Liberals and The Alternative coded as Bourgeois. This graph shows us that the close competition between a traditional left and right was a thing of the 1960s and 1980s. In the 21st Century, parties with a Socialist and Reformist background struggle to reach 40% of the vote.
Finally, we could take the history of the blocs from the 2015 election with the Social Liberals and The Alternative joining the “Red” or “Progressive” bloc. In a historical perspective we should note that the Social Liberals have joined forces with the Bourgeois parties several times, most notably during the VKR-era (1968-1973) and during the decade of Schlüter governments (1982-1990/93). Here, the rise of the Bourgeois parties – including the Danish People’s Party – since 2001 stand out. We could perhaps argue that while the Social Liberals controlled the median legislator between 1929 and 2001, we are now back in the situation from the 1920s where the political blocs actively fought over the control of the median.