The Department of History at Aarhus University has launched a site covering elections to the Folketing from 1953 to 2007. Only in Danish but it looks very comprehensive and useful:
While the votes are still being counted, the prognosis is fairly stable and the result is quite a stunner: The True Finns Party stand to win 19,1 percent of the vote, making it the second-largest party in terms of votes and the third-largest in terms of seats in the Eduskunta. The Centre Party was the big loser going from 23,1 to 15,8 percent of the vote. Centre Party leader and prime minister Mari Kiviniemi has hinted that the CP could go into opposition while Social Democratic leader Jutta Urpilainen apparently has stated that the True Finns should be taken into account in the coming negotiations over a new government.
In policy terms, a government including the True Finns (PS) would be more Euro-skeptic than the Finnish governments of the 1990s and 2000s. The next question is how the next Finnish government will be constituted: If the SDP wants to tap into the anti-establishment sentiment with PS, the two parties still lack 20 seats to win a majority. Obviously, you could add the Conservatives to the mix – this is Finland, after all, and oversized coalitions are frequent – but having a coalition of two establishment and one populist party sounds a bit uneasy. Still, Wolfgang Schüssel performed a similar act in Austria between 2000 and 2007, and the True Finns’ predecessor party, the Finnish Rural Party, participated in the government between 1983 and 1991. The Swedish People’s Party has been included in every government since the early 1970s but linking PS’s strident Fenno-Finnish brand of nationalism with the minority interests of the Fenno-Swedes will not be easy. At the same time, the SFP may well prefer being inside and able to block the worst of the PS’s anti-Swedish initiatives.
Interesting times indeed.
Update 2001-04-18: (In Swedish) Professor Göran Djupsund considers the problems facing the Conservative leader Jyrki Katainen who will probably be the next Finnish prime minister (he would be only the second Conservative to hold that position since 1946), while (in Norwegian) Anders Ravik Juspkås discusses the forces behind the True Finns as well as the prospects of the coalition negotiations.
Actually, the present Danish Folketing hasn’t passed the 3,5 year-mark yet (that would happen in late May) and just about everybody are seeing it as a dying dinosaur. But just how many parliaments have lasted 3,5 years or longer since the 4-year election term was introduced in 1918?
More than many people think:
September 1920-April 1924
April 1929-November 1932
April 1939-March 1943 (the longest term ever served by a Folketing due to the German occupation)
September 1953-May 1957
May 1957-November 1960
November 1960-September 1964 (note that we had three long parliaments between 1953 and 1964)
January 1984-September 1987
December 1990-September 1994
March 1998-November 2001
November 2007-(post-March 2011)
If we add Folketings serving for more than three years:
October 1935-April 1939 (a couple of weeks short of 3,5 years)
September 1994-March 1998 (again a couple of weeks short of 3,5 years).
At the other end, some parliaments never made it past two years. If we exclude the first two elections in 1920 and the first one in 1953, they are:
October 1945-October 1947 (missed two years by a matter of days)
November 1966-January 1968
December 1973-January 1975
September 1987-May 1988
Even if Hamburg in many ways is a bourgeois city, it has never been CDU country. That the party managed to hold power in Hamburg since 2001 had as much to do with protest politics (the now defunct Partei Rechtsstaatlicher Offensive) and the ability of Ole von Beust to navigate the upheavals of the early 2000s as with more fundamental changes in the political mood in the city-state. Still, the CDU miraculously managed to win a majority in the 2004 election and after the 2008 election formed a surprising coalition with the Green Party. Von Beust was nothing if not versatile. He was also helped by the fact that the Hamburg SPD was a mess during much of the last decade.
The SPD victory at Sunday’s early election was a massive one. CDU lost half of its share of the vote while SPD almost won 50% of the vote. Thanks to the 5% threshold, SPD will be able to form a one-party government in the new Bürgerschaft. A good reason to party.
At the same time, SPD was also able to benefit from a number of mistakes made by von Beust and his successor Christoph Ahlhaus. The CDU-GAL coalition made sense as von Beust appealed to culturally liberal Hamburgers, but support did not go so far as to cover a reform of Hamburg’s school system. Germany basically is a society organised along class lines and the bourgeoisie does not like the idea of its children attending the same schools (and school system) as working-class children. The school reform – which was very modest in Scandinavian eyes – suffered a clear defeat at a referendum last year.
The choice of Christoph Ahlhaus as von Beust’s successor made some sense as CDU was trying to rebuild its conservative credentials following the schools debacle – Ahlhaus is everything von Beust wasn’t. Unfortunately, this also meant that he wasn’t from Hamburg or even Northern Germany. It might have worked, had he been from Lübeck, Bremen or even Rostock. Similarly, even if the Hamburger bourgeoisie may be conservative, it is not Conservative. The best SPD leaders have realised this and presented themselves as realist Social Democrats – even if Helmut Schmidt never served as Erster Bürgermeister, he always fitted the bill perfectly. Olaf Scholz may not be the next Helmut Schmidt but his Schröderite credentials and experience as Labour and Social Affairs Minister during the later part of the 2005-2009 Grand Coalition haven’t exactly hurt him.
(Click to view large)
Just out of curiosity, I calculated the vote share won by the largest two parties in the elections for the Danish Folketing from 1918 (when proportional representation was introduced) to 2007. For most of the time, the Social Democrats and the Liberals have been the two largest parties with 1935, 1943, 1968, 1971 (Conservatives), 1973, 1977 (Progress Party) and 1981-1990 (Conservatives) as the exceptions.
From 1918 to 1960 the share varied between 60 to 65 percent of the vote, but from then on the share has declined and hovered between 50 and 55 percent. The resurgence of, first, the Social Democrats and then the Liberals put the share back to the 60 percent level but in 2005 and 2007 we have been back to the levels of the 1970s and 1980s. Recent opinion polls suggest that the combined share of the Social Democrats and the Liberals is around 50 percent.
As you have probably noted, I have a serious grudge against the indiscriminate use by journalists of the term “presidential election” with regard to Danish election campaigns and I would like (again) to point out that focusing solely on the leaders of the two main parties does lead to reporting losing some important aspects of the election campaign and the political process.
While we are at it: There are many ways of calculating the fractionalisation in a parliament. Here is a graph with the effective number of parties at the start of the parliamentary terms from 1953 to 2007.
Oh, well: One of my readers tricked me into making a prediction.
We still have no indication about when the next election to the Folketing will be called. The ball is on the prime minister’s part of the pitch and he can call an election with three week’s notice. The best guesses would probably be some time in January (provided Lars Løkke Rasmussen makes a splash in his new year’s speech), April (this has to do with the coming round of collective bargaining in the public sector) or September (before the opening of the 2011-2012 parliamentary year), but short-term movements in the public opinion will no doubt be followed extremely closely by Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Lene Espersen.
The electoral agenda seems to have moved from immigration to “classic” themes like the economy and public services. I have also seen figures which imply that the government has lost the advantage that the bourgeois bloc has enjoyed with regard to health services since the late 1990s.
Still, the likely outcome is a much more complicated Folketing than the ones we have known since 2001 where the government has been able to govern with the support of DF. If the government manages to survive, it will depend on DF and LA whose political agendas are very different. Similarly, an S-SF government (in itself a novum in Danish politics) will rely on either DF or the Red-Greens and the Social Liberals to pass its policies.
As it is, the next Danish prime minister (Lars Løkke Rasmussen or Helle Thorning-Schmidt) will need the flexibility of a Poul Schlüter to survive. The next Folketing will be interesting.
Just a follow-up to the previous post: My colleague David Nicolas Hopmann had this electoral poster (in Danish) for Simon Faber which is now hanging in our corridor at SDU.
Maybe I ought to write something about the latest twists in Danish immigration policy – the only problem is that Danish politics these day more often than not makes me want to jump out of the window. It is probably a good thing that I live on the ground floor.
So… in other news:
On Sunday, voters in the city of Flensburg (or Flensborg, as it is called in Danish) elected a new mayor, and none other than Simon Faber of the SSW. This, as far as I can tell, is the first time a representative from the party of the Danish and Frisian minorities holds a political position this prominent.1
The election has some interesting aspects:
1. The Cities in Schleswig-Holstein elect their mayor (Oberbürgermeister) directly – but the turn-out was dismal. In the run-off election, only 23,3 percent of the electorate bothered to vote. In the first round turn-out was just as bad with 27 percent voting.
2. The question is if abstentions were equally distributed among “Danes” and “Germans”. Maybe the minority was more motivated to vote in the second round?
3. The two candidates in the run-off were supported by coalitions – Simon Faber by SSW and SPD while Elfi Heesch was supported by CDU and Die Grünen. Jörg Klose, the candidate supported by the largest group in the city council, WiF, only managed to attract 9 percent of the vote in the first round.
4. Actually, Faber narrowly edged out SPD’s candidate Thede Boysen in the first round.
5. Electorally, there have been some major upheavals in local politics in Flensburg recently: Both SPD and CDU have suffered major defeats in the last local elections – SPD twice: From 35 to 25 percent of the vote in 2003 and then again to 16 percent in 2008, while CDU went down like a lead balloon in 2008 from 37 to 20 percent of the vote.
All in all, it is probably not too surprising that somebody not attached to either SPD or CDU won the election this time even if I know too little about local politics in Flensburg to get the entire picture.
- Wikipedia tells us that Helmut Christensen – no relation – was acting OB in 1982-1983 [↩]
This is an act of shameless self-promotion: Along with Flemming Juul Christiansen I contributed with a chapter on the elections in Denmark. Given the price tag, you will probably find it in specialist libraries.
Juliet Lodge (ed): The 2009 Elections to the European Parliament. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. (Amazon.co.uk)
After almost five years of eponymous blogging, I’m happy to introduce nothing less than the first guest blogger on this site: Jessika Wide, a former colleague from Umeå who is now a Post Doc at Uppsala University. Jessika’s main line of work concerns the political representation of women and here she writes about the decrease in the share of women MPs at the recent Swedish election and the possible causes.
The results from the dramatic parliamentary election in Sweden are just settled. So far the entry of the Sweden Democrats into the parliament and their position as the holder of the balance of power has attracted most attention. However another striking result is a decrease in female representation, from 47 % to 45 %. The decrease might be seen as marginal, but it is a break in the development. Since Swedish women became eligible in 1921, female representation has constantly increased, election after election. The only exception is the fateful election in 1991.
In 1991 the female representation in parliament decreased from 38 % to 33 %. One reason was the entry of male-dominated populist New Democracy into parliament. Another that the right-wing parties won seats from the left, and the right-wing parties had a lower female representation than the left-wing parties. The decreased female representation was seen as very serious and as a consequence a number of feminists created a network called “the Support Stockings”. The aim of the network was to pressure the political parties to increase the female representation in the election in 1994. Otherwise the network should create a women’s party, which was supported by a majority of the population and seen as a threat by the other parties. The result was that the established parties did increase the share of female candidates, for example the Social Democrats introduced zipped lists.1 In the election 1994 the female representation increased to 40 %, a new world record at that time.
So, what happened in the election this year? Hitherto the decrease in female representation is said to depend solely on the entry of the Sweden Democrats, with 3 female and 17 male MPs. However this is only half the truth. The female representation has also decreased significantly in some other parties. For example if only the Centre Party and the Liberal Party had sustained their share of female MPs from 2006, the female representation in parliament would not have decreased at all this election, despite the entry of the male-dominated Sweden Democrats.
This is the female representation in the political parties after the election (with female representation 2006 in parenthesis) and the number of MPs in total:
The Left Party: 58 % (64 %), 19 MPs
The Social Democrats: 48 % (48 %), 112 MPs
The Green Party: 56 % (42 %), 25 MPs
The Centre: 30 % (41 %), 23 MPs
The Liberal Party: 42 % (54 %), 24 MPs
The Christian Democrats: 37 % (38 %), 19 MPs
The Moderate Party: 48 % (43 %), 107 MPs
The Sweden Democrats: 15 % (–), 20 MPs
Why do we see this decrease in some parties which normally are considered to be positive towards gender equality and with a previous history of a high female representation? It is even more confusing that the Moderates have a gender-balanced representation, despite the fact that issues concerning gender equality and gender quotas are not very prioritized in the party.
The answer is the electoral system. Sweden has a proportional system which is seen as positive towards female representation, but the country is divided into 20 constituencies. The Social Democrats and the Moderates both received about 30 % of the votes and in most constituencies they won several seats each. Meanwhile the smaller parties have won maximally one seat each in the constituencies. This is nothing new, but it is clear that in this election the right-wing parties have gone to the polls with most lists topped by a male candidate. Since only one candidate from each party is elected it makes no difference that the rest of list is zipped. Also the Green Party and the Left Party won maximally one seat each in the constituencies, but in those parties the candidate selection is coordinated on a national basis to achieve a gender-balance also among the top candidates.
What will be the consequence of the decreased female representation? Most likely we will not see a repeat of the reactions in 1991. Most people will probably consider 45 % to be just as good as 47 %. Still it is the second best in the world (after Rwanda). Moreover we already have a feminist party in Sweden today, Feminist Initiative, which only received a modest 0.40 % of the votes in the election. More likely there will be a discussion within the smaller right-wing parties with a decreased female representation, especially in the Centre Party, which had 50 % female MPs in 2002. There might also be a discussion about the gender distribution of the parties’ top candidates on the ballots in the elections. This affects not only the female representation in parliament but also the gender distribution of positions of power at the national as well as the municipal level. For example, men still dominate in the municipal executive boards and among municipal commissioners.
- Zipped lists – or “varannan damernas” – means that male and female candidates alternate on the party lists /JC [↩]