As the media frenzy is building up in expectation of the Big Reshuffle, I thought it could be fun looking at the distribution of portfolios in the Danish government in 2001 and 2009 and see what makes sense from a political science perspective.
First, we need a distribution key. Following the exit of Connie Hedegaard, the Løkke Rasmussen cabinet has 18 ministers and 19 portfolios (Ecclesiastics is the “extra” portfolio), in 2001 the numbers were 18 and 18.
In 2001 the Liberals had won a record 31.2% of the vote with the Conservatives won 9.1%. To make life a bit easier, we make that 30/10, i.e. the Conservatives should have had a quarter of the portfolios. As it was, the distribution was 12 Liberals and 6 Conservatives, i.e. one third. This is not quite unusual, but all things considered, Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave the Conservatives a handsome deal when he formed his first cabinet. This may also explain why the distribution in 2009 is – 12/6 (discounting Connie Hedegaard and counting heads instead of portfolios) even if the result of the 2007 election was 26.2% and 10.4%.
Then there is the actual distribution of portfolios. In 2001, this was:
For the Liberals: Prime Minister’s Office, Finance, Employment, Integration, Science and Development, Food and Agriculture, Environment, Interior (i.e. Local Government) and Health, Ecclesiastics, Education, Defence, Taxes.
For the Conservatives: Economic Planning and Industry, Foreign Office, Justice (i.e. Interior and Justice in international parlance), Culture, Traffic, Social Affairs.
The only real surprise here is that the Liberals and not the Conservatives took Defence as this is a traditional preference for conservative parties. If we look at Foreign Office and Defence as a bundle, the distribution makes sense: The Conservatives could get one, but not both.
There has been some splitting and welding of portfolios over the past eight years so at the end of 2009, we had the following:
Liberals: Prime Minister’s Office, Finance, Employment, Integration and Ecclesiastics (hmmm…), Science, Food and Agriculture, Environment, Interior (Local Government) and Social Affairs, Climate and Energy, Education, Defence, Taxes, Development.
Conservatives: Economic Planning and Industry, Foreign Office, Justice (Interior), Culture, Transport, Health.
There are some clusters of portfolios, a prime minister and his deputy can play around with. For instance, Energy and Environment; Health, Social Affairs, Employment and Interior; Education, Science and Culture could all yield some surprising new portfolio. Then there is the question of swapping portfolios between parties (e.g. social affairs and health or education and science) which could complicate matters.
If I should make a guess, then these will be safe Liberal portfolios: PMO, Finance, Employment, Integration, Food and Agriculture, Interior, Education, Defence, Taxes and probably Development (if FO is Conservative).
And these are safe Conservative Portfolios: Economic Planning and Industry (as one or two portfolios, but splitting might cost the Conservatives one other portfolio), Foreign Office, Justice, Transport and in all likelihood Culture.
If we look at it historically, the Conservatives have always had their eyes on Employment (1950-1953 and 1982-1993, that is) but Social Affairs might be better for all parties. Would the Conservatives swap Health for Social Affairs?
Anyways: Reshuffle? What Reshuffle?