Prime Minister of Denmark

The Prime Minister of Denmark (Danish: Danmarks statsminister) is the head of government in the Kingdom of Denmark. Before the creation of the modern office, Denmark did not initially have a head of government separate from its head of state, namely the Monarch, in whom the executive authority was vested. The Constitution of 1849 established a constitutional monarchy by limiting the powers of the Monarch and creating the office of premierminister. The inaugural holder of the office was Adam Wilhelm Moltke.

The Prime Minister presides over a cabinet that is formally appointed by the Monarch. In practice, the appointment of the Prime Minister is determined by their support in the Folketing (The National Parliament). Since the beginning of the 20th century no single party has held a majority in the Folketing, so the Prime Minister must head a coalition of political parties, as well as their own party. Additionally, only four coalition governments since World War II have enjoyed a majority in the Folketing, so the coalitions (and the Prime Minister) must also gain loose support from other minor parties.

The current Prime Minister of Denmark is Lars Løkke Rasmussen. He leads a government consisting of Venstre, Liberal Alliance and the Conservative People's Party with parliamentary support from the Danish People's Party.

Prime Minister of Denmark
Danmarks statsminister
National Coat of arms of Denmark
Flag of Denmark (state)
Lars Løkke Rasmussen in 2017
Lars Løkke Rasmussen

since 28 June 2015
StyleMr. Prime Minister (Formal)
His Excellency (diplomatic, outside Denmark[1])
Member ofCouncil of State
European Council
SeatChristiansborg, Copenhagen, Denmark
AppointerThe Monarch
Based on Appointee's ability to gain majority support in the Folketing
Term lengthNo fixed term (Usually up to 4 years)
Formation22 March 1848
First holderAdam Wilhelm Moltke
DeputyMinister of Foreign Affairs[2]
Salarykr. 1,458,000 p.a. ($ 269,830)
WebsiteThe Prime Minister's Office



From approximately 1699 to 1730, the highest ranking non-monarchial government official was titled the "Grand Chancellor" (storkansler) and from 1730 until 1848, this office was titled "Minister of State" (Statsminister). These titles foreshadowed the modern office of Prime Minister, however, unlike the current office, the Grand Chancellor and State Minister were not formal heads of government. The King held executive authority as absolute ruler from 1661 until the enactment of a liberal Constitution in the early nineteenth century.

The office of Prime Minister was introduced as a part of the constitutional monarchy outlined in 1848 and signed as the Danish Constitution on 5 June 1849. The new Constitution established a parliamentary system by creating a new bicameral parliament (Rigsdagen) and a Council Presidum, headed by a Council President.[3] The Council Presidium is regarded as the predecessor of the modern Prime Minister's Office.[3] The first Council President was Adam Wilhelm Moltke, who came to power on 22 March 1848. Molte and his next two successors also held the title of premierminister, which translates as "prime minister".

From 1855 onwards the Prime Minister was known simply as the "Council President" (Konseilspræsident). Carl Christian Hall became the first Prime Minister/Council President to lead a political party (the National Liberal Party).

Modern office

The modern Prime Minister's Office was founded on 1 January 1914, when the Council Presidium was established as a department under the Prime Minister,[3] when it had previously existed as an informal council gathered by the Prime Minister. The title of the Prime Minister changed again in 1918 under the Premiership of Carl Theodor Zahle, becoming titled the "Minister of State" (in-line with its Scandinavian neighbours, Norway and Sweden), which it remains to this day.

By the mid-nineteenth century a strong party-system had developed, with most Prime Ministers being the leader of either Venstre (left) or Højre (right). However, by 1924 the Social Democrats had become the largest party and Højre had disappeared.

During the first years of Occupation of Denmark, the governments of Prime Ministers Vilhelm Buhl and then Erik Scavenius cooperated with the Nazi occupiers. On 29 August 1943, the Danish government resigned, refusing to grant further concessions to Nazi Germany. All government operations were assumed by the permanent secretaries of the individual departments, and this arrangement lasted until the Liberation of Denmark on 5 May 1945. Since King Christian X never accepted the resignation of the government, it existed de jure until a new cabinet was formed on 5 May 1945.

The twentieth century was dominated by Social Democratic Prime Ministers leading left-wing coalitions; Social Democratic Prime Ministers were in power nearly continuously from 1924 until 1982. The first Prime Minister from the Conservative People's Party, Poul Schlüter, came to power as the head of a broad centre-right coalition in 1982. The centre-right coalition ruled in 1993, last for eleven years, made it became the longest centre-right government in Denmark history since 1920s.

In November 2001 the left-wing coalition in the Folketing lost seats to the right-wing coalition led by Venstre, ending their eight years rule. Venstre became the largest party since 1924. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, leader of Venstre, served as the Prime Minister from 2001 to April 2009. His coalition government consisted of Venstre and the Conservative People's Party, with parliamentary support from the national-conservative Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti). On 5 April 2009, Rasmussen resigned to become Secretary General of NATO, leaving minister of finance and vice president of Venstre Lars Løkke Rasmussen to be the Prime Minister.

Following the September 2011 election the right-wing lost by a small margin to the opposing centre-left coalition, led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt who on 3 October 2011 formed a new government initially consisting of the Social Democrats, the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party. Following a general election defeat, in June 2015 Thorning-Schmidt resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who heads a minority government consisting entirely of ministers from Venstre.

Role and authority

The Constitution of Denmark states that the Monarch, who is the head of state, has supreme authority and acts out this power through their ministers.[4] The Monarch formally appoints and dismisses ministers, including the Prime Minister.[5] In a sense, the Prime Minister only has the power that is given by the Monarch, according to the Constitution.

Although the country's leading politician, the Prime Minister is not nearly as powerful as other prime ministers in Europe. This is mainly because it is nearly impossible for one party to get a majority of seats in the Folketing (Parliament), so the government is always a coalition between two or more parties. No Danish party has won a majority since 1901, and for much of that time there has not even been a majority coalition.[6] Because of his limited powers, the Prime Minister is primus inter pares (first among equals).[6] Additionally, as a result of the weak control they have over parliament, the Prime Minister must cobble together a majority for each piece of legislation.

Although, as stated, the Monarch formally appoints all ministers of the cabinet freely, in practice Monarchs only conventionally select the Prime Minister after a leader has gathered support from a majority in the Folketing. A single party rarely has a majority in the Folketing, instead parties form alliances; usually the Social Democrats with centre-left parties, and Venstre with centre-right parties. Following elections when there is no clear leader, the Monarch will hold a "King/Queen's meeting" where, after a series of discussions and agreements, the leader of the largest alliance and the largest party within that alliance—usually the Social Democrats or Venstre- is appointed as Prime Minister-elect (kongelig undersøger) . The new Prime Minister-elect, together with the leaders of the junior parties, select ministers to form a new coalition cabinet, which is the presented to the Monarch.

The Prime Minister chairs the weekly meetings of the council of ministers and has the power to set the agenda of these meetings. The Prime Minister traditionally gathers together a government ministry known as the "Ministry of the State of Denmark" (Statsministeriet) or Prime Minister's Office.[3] Atypical of a Danish ministry it does not have any councils, boards or committees associated with it and its near sole responsibility is to act as the secretariat of the Prime Minister. There is a small department under the ministry that takes care of special legal issues not covered under other ministries, among others Greenland's and Faroe Islands relation to the Monarchy, the mass media's contact to the State, number of ministers in the government, or Queen Margrethe II legal status as a civilian.

The Prime Minister, by convention, chooses to dissolve the Folketing and call a new election (although this is formally undertaken by the Monarch), which the Prime Minister is obligated to do within four years of the previous election. In spite of this, the Prime Minister has no say with respect to Denmark's autonomous regions, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, while the Folketing on the other hand does, as all laws passed by the Faroese and Greenlandic parliaments must be ratified by the Folketing.

There exist checks on the Prime Minister's power; the Folketing may revoke its confidence in an incumbent Prime Minister, in which case the Prime Minister must either resign along with the entire cabinet or ask the Monarch to dissolve the Folketing and call a new election. Whenever a Prime Minister resigns, dies, or is forced from office, the Monarch asks them (or, in the case of death, the next available leader in a coalition) to keep the government as a caretaker government until a successor has been elected.


The government offices, including the Ministry of the State of Denmark (Statsministeriet; The Prime Minister's Office), is located inside Christiansborg Palace, along with the Folketing and the courts.

The official summer residence of the Prime Minister is Marienborg, an eighteenth-century estate that was acquired by the State. It is situated on the shore of Lake Bagsværd in Kgs. Lyngby, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north of Copenhagen. It has served as an official summer residence for ten Prime Ministers since 1960. Marienborg is frequently used for governmental conferences and informal summits between the government, industry and organisations in Denmark.

List of Prime Ministers

Living former Prime Ministers


Poul Schlüter
born April 3, 1929 (age 90)
served 1982–93

Flickr - europeanpeoplesparty - EPP and PES PRESIDENTS DEBATE 21.01.2005 (21)

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
born June 15, 1943 (age 75)
served 1993–2001

Former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Nordic Council Session in Helsinki 2008-10-28

Anders Fogh Rasmussen
born January 26, 1953 (age 66)
served 2001–09

Helle Thorning-Schmidt portrait

Helle Thorning-Schmidt
born December 14, 1966 (age 52)
served 2011–15

See also


  1. ^ Protocol and Liaison Service Archived 2012-11-16 at WebCite, United Nations.
  2. ^ Statsministeriet (28 November 2016). "State Council Order" (PDF) (in Danish). Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Statsministeriet (The Prime Minister's Office) - History. Access date: 1 September 2012
  4. ^ "Section 12". Constitution of Denmark. ICL. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  5. ^ "Section 14". Constitution of Denmark. ICL. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  6. ^ a b Strom, Kaare; Muller, Wolfgang C.; Bergman, Torbjorn, eds. (2006). Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies. Retrieved September 3, 2012.

External links

1839 in Denmark

Events from the year 1839 in Denmark.

1842 in Denmark

Events from the year 1842 in Denmark.

1986 Danish Single European Act referendum

A non-binding referendum on the Single European Act was held in Denmark on 27 February 1986. It was approved by 56.2% of voters, with a voter participation of 75.4%.The referendum was held by the government of the Prime Minister of Denmark, Poul Schlüter. The government was in favour of Denmark ratifying the Single European Act, but a majority in parliament was against it. The referendum was the last Europe-related referendum in which parties such as the Social Democrats and the Social Liberal Party recommended against ratification.

Adam Wilhelm Moltke

Adam Wilhelm, Greve Moltke (25 August 1785 – 15 February 1864) was Prime Minister of Denmark from 1848 to 1852. He was the first Danish Prime Minister in the Danish constitutional monarchy outlined in 1848 and signed as the Danish Constitution on 5 June 1849 by Frederik VII of Denmark.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Danish pronunciation: [ɑnɐs ˈfɔwˀ ˈʁɑsmusn̩] (listen); born 26 January 1953) is a Danish politician who was the 24th Prime Minister of Denmark from November 2001 to April 2009 and the 12th Secretary General of NATO from August 2009 to October 2014. He is now CEO of political consultancy Rasmussen Global and a senior advisor at The Boston Consulting Group's Copenhagen office.Rasmussen was first elected to the Folketing in 1978 and served in various ministerial positions, including Minister of Tax (1987–1992) and Minister of Economic Affairs (1990–1992). In his early career, Rasmussen was a strident critic of the welfare state, writing the classical liberal book From Social State to Minimal State in 1993. However, through the 1990s, his views moved towards the political centre. He was elected the leader of the conservative-liberal party Venstre in 1998 and headed a centre-right coalition with the Conservative People's Party which took office in November 2001 and won its second and third terms in February 2005 and in November 2007. Rasmussen's government relied on the Danish People's Party for support, keeping with the Danish tradition of minority government.

His government introduced tougher limits on non-EEA immigration and a freeze on tax rates (skattestoppet in Danish). Certain taxes were lowered, but his coalition partners in the Conservative People's Party repeatedly argued for more tax cuts and a flat tax rate at no higher than 50%. Rasmussen's government implemented an administrative reform reducing the number of municipalities (kommuner) and replacing the thirteen counties (amter) with five regions, which he referred to as "the biggest reform in thirty years". He authored several books about taxation and government structure. He resigned as Prime Minister in April 2009 to become Secretary General of NATO. His term as Secretary General was to end in the summer of 2014. However, on 11 December 2013 the North Atlantic Council extended his term until 30 September 2014, in order to ensure the organisation of the 2014 NATO summit in Newport, United Kingdom.

Anders Sandøe Ørsted

Anders Sandøe Ørsted (21 December 1778, Rudkøbing – 1 May 1860) was a Danish lawyer, politician and jurist. He served as the Prime Minister of Denmark in 1853–1854.

Denmark–India relations

Denmark–India relations are foreign relations between Denmark and India. Denmark has an embassy in New Delhi, and India has an embassy in Copenhagen.

Erik Eriksen

Erik Eriksen (20 November 1902 – 7 October 1972) was a Danish politician, who served as Prime Minister of Denmark from 1950 to 1953 and as the fourth President of the Nordic Council in 1956. Eriksen was leader of the Danish Liberal party Venstre from 1950 to 1965. He served as Prime Minister of Denmark from 30 October 1950 to 30 September 1953 as leader of the Cabinet of Erik Eriksen forming a minority government of Venstre and the Conservative People's Party. Erik Eriksen was a farmer by profession.

The main accomplishment by his government was a revision of the Danish constitution, voted into law in a referendum held in 1953 simultaneously with the parliamentary elections. In addition, a family allowance law was passed in 1952, along with other reforms during Eriksen's time as prime minister. The Rent Act of June 1951, while permitting certain rent increases, extended rent control and security of tenure to cover houses constructed after 1939. In addition, the Public Assistance Act of March 1953 introduced special treatment and assistance for patients with polio. The former Venstre leader and former Prime Minister Knud Kristensen had broken away from Venstre to form his own party, De Uafhængige. This was one of reasons why the social democrat Hans Hedtoft was able to secure the parliamentary support to replace Erik Eriksen as Prime Minister and form the Cabinet of Hans Hedtoft.

After 1953 Eriksen continued as the leader of the opposition but in the long run his consequent alliance with the Conservatives proved an obstacle to a co-operation with Det Radikale Venstre. He therefore resigned as the leader of his party 1965 and was replaced by Poul Hartling.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Danish pronunciation: [hɛlə ˈtoɐ̯neŋ ˈsmed]; born 14 December 1966) is a retired Danish politician who served as the 26th Prime Minister of Denmark from 2011 to 2015, and Leader of the Social Democrats from 2005 to 2015. She is the first woman to hold each post. Following defeat in 2015, she announced that she would step down as both Danish Prime Minister and Social Democratic party leader. Ending her political career in April 2016, she is the chief executive of the NGO Save the Children.Thorning-Schmidt served as a Member of the European Parliament for Denmark from 1999 to 2004 before being elected to the Danish Parliament in 2005. She was elected to replace Mogens Lykketoft as Leader of the Social Democrats after the 2005 parliamentary election, leading her party through the 2007 parliamentary election, which was won by the centre-right alliance, and the 2011 parliamentary election, after which she was appointed Prime Minister by Queen Margrethe II. Thorning-Schmidt holds degrees in political science from the University of Copenhagen and a graduate degree from the College of Europe.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen

Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Danish: [lɑːs ˈløɡə ˈʁɑsmusn̩] ; born 15 May 1964) is a Danish politician serving as the 25th and current Prime Minister of Denmark since 2015, previously holding the position from 2009 to 2011, and as Leader of the centre-right liberal Venstre party since 2009.

Rasmussen has been a member of the Folketing since 21 September 1994. He also served as County Mayor of Frederiksborg County from 1998 to 2001. Subsequently, he was the Interior and Health Minister from 27 November 2001 to 23 November 2007 as part of Anders Fogh Rasmussen's first and second cabinets, and then Minister of Finance from 23 November 2007 to April 2009 as part of Anders Fogh Rasmussen's third cabinet. On 5 April 2009, he succeeded Anders Fogh Rasmussen as Prime Minister following the latter's appointment as Secretary General of NATO.

In the 2011 general election, the government lost its parliamentary majority and Rasmussen tendered the government's resignation to Queen Margrethe II. He was succeeded by Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democrats on 3 October 2011. In the 2015 general election, the right-wing parties regained a majority in the Folketing. Rasmussen again became Prime Minister and formed his second cabinet in the same month. This cabinet was made up exclusively of Venstre members, but in November of 2016 he was pressured to also include members of Liberal Alliance and Conservative People's Party, forming his third cabinet.

Ministry of the State of Denmark

Ministry of the State of Denmark (The Prime Minister's Office) (Danish: Statsministeriet) is a Danish government ministry. Atypical of a Danish ministry it does not have any councils, boards or committees associated with it and its near sole responsibility is to act as the secretariat of the Prime Minister of Denmark. There is a small department under the ministry that takes care of special legal issues not covered under other ministries, among others Greenland's and Faroe Islands relation to the Danish monarchy, the mass media's contact to the State, number of ministers in the government, or Queen Margrethe II legal status as a civilian.

The Ministry of the State of Denmark was founded January 1, 1914, though its origin can be found in a small secretariat created in 1848, the Council of State ("Statsrådet") to assist the new Council President ("konseilspræsident"), the name used for the Prime Minister of Denmark from 1855 to 1918.

Niels Neergaard

Niels Thomasius Neergaard (27 June 1854 – 2 September 1936) was a Danish historian and political figure, a member of the Liberal Moderate Venstre and since 1910 of Venstre. He served as Council President of Denmark between 1908 and 1909 as head of the Cabinet of Neergaard I and as both Prime minister of Denmark and Finance Minister from 5 May 1920 to 23 April 1924, leading the Cabinet of Neergaard II and III. His last cabinet office was as Finance Minister (14 December 1926 – 30 April 1929).

Otto Liebe

Carl Julius Otto Liebe (24 May 1860 – 21 March 1929) was Prime Minister of Denmark 30 March 1920 to 5 April 1920.

Otto Liebe was a lawyer and the son of a conservative politician. He was close to King Christian X and he disapproved the political course of the radical Zahle cabinet both its restrictions on business life and its attitude to the Schleswig question (see Easter Crisis of 1920).

Poul Hartling

Poul Hartling (14 August 1914 – 30 April 2000) was a Danish diplomat and politician. He was a member of the Liberal Party and served as Prime Minister of Denmark from 1973 to 1975 in the Cabinet of Poul Hartling.

Hartling served as Foreign Minister of Denmark from 1968 until 1971 in the Cabinet of Hilmar Baunsgaard. In 1973 Hartling became Prime Minister of Denmark when the sitting Danish Social Democratic Party government of Anker Jørgensen was unable to form a government after the 1973 Danish parliamentary election. Hartling was Prime Minister from 19 December 1973 until 13 February 1975, when Anker Jørgensen and the Social Democrats came to power again. In social policy, Hartling's time as Prime Minister witnessed the passage of the Social Assistance Act of 1974, which instructed municipal authorities to provide day-care and recreation centres for children and young people.

Hartling then left Danish politics to work for the United Nations. He was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 1978 until 1985. In 1981 Hartling accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the UNHCR.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

Poul Oluf Nyrup Rasmussen (Danish pronunciation: [pɒwl ˈnyːˀɔb ˈʁɑsmusn̩], informally Poul Nyrup, born 15 June 1943), was Prime Minister of Denmark from 25 January 1993 to 27 November 2001 and President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) from 2004 to 2011. He was the leader of the governing Social Democrats from 1992 to 2002. He was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009.

Poul Schlüter

Poul Holmskov Schlüter (Danish pronunciation: [pʌwl 'hʌlmsɡʌw 'slydɐ], born 3 April 1929) is a Danish politician, who served as Prime Minister of Denmark from 1982 to 1993. He was the first member of the Conservative People's Party to become Prime Minister, as well as the first conservative to hold the office since 1901.

Thomas Madsen-Mygdal

Thomas Madsen-Mygdal (24 December 1876 – 23 February 1943) was Prime Minister of Denmark from 14 December 1926 to 30 April 1929, as leader of a Liberal Party government. His cabinet is called the Cabinet of Madsen-Mygdal.

Thorvald Stauning

Thorvald August Marinus Stauning (Danish: [toɐ̯væl ˈsdæwneŋ]; 26 October 1873 in Copenhagen – 3 May 1942) was the first social democratic Prime Minister of Denmark. He served as Prime Minister from 1924 to 1926 and again from 1929 until his death in 1942.

Under Stauning's leadership Denmark, like the other Western European countries, developed a social welfare state, and though many of his ambitions for Social Democracy were ultimately thwarted, in his lifetime, by events beyond his control, his leadership through grave times places Stauning among the most admired of twentieth-century Danish statesmen.

The Stauning Alps, a large mountain range in Greenland, were named after him.

Vilhelm Buhl

Vilhelm Buhl (16 October 1881 – 18 December 1954) was Prime Minister of Denmark from 4 May 1942 to 9 November 1942 as head of the Unity Government (the Cabinet of Vilhelm Buhl I) during the German occupation of Denmark of World War II, until the Nazis ordered him removed. He was Prime Minister again from 5 May 1945 to 7 November 1945 as head of a unity government (the Cabinet of Vilhelm Buhl II) after the liberation of Denmark by the British Field Marshal Montgomery.

Vilhelm Buhl was a member of the Social Democrats, and had held the post of Finance Minister in the cabinets of Thorvald Stauning from 20 July 1937 to 4 May 1942.

During Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark, Thorvald Stauning had created a unity government. When Thorvald Stauning died in May 1942, Vilhelm Buhl succeeded him. This government only lasted six months, because of a diplomatic incident, the Telegram Crisis, in which King Christian X sent a short and formal reply to a long birthday telegram from Adolf Hitler. Hitler was outraged by this insult, and as a result Vilhelm Buhl was replaced by Erik Scavenius. Werner Best was sent to Denmark as a new tough Nazi commander.

After the liberation of Denmark on 5 May 1945, the politicians and the resistance fighters formed a unity government (Cabinet of Vilhelm Buhl II). Many Danes were dissatisfied with the politicians because of their policy of cooperation with the Germans that had dominated at the start of the war, hence the inclusion of the resistance fighters. Notable members of the cabinet included Aksel Larsen, Hans Hedtoft, H. C. Hansen, Knud Kristensen and John Christmas Møller. In social policy, the government presided over the passage of the Housing Obligation Act of August 1945, introduced obligatory allocation of vacant housing to ensure that vacant flats were let in the first instance to those with low incomes, while also establishing tight rent controls. The government also presided over the trials of the people who had cooperated with the Germans, as a result of which 45 persons were executed. After the elections in October 1945 Knud Kristensen became the new prime minister.

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