Today Queen Margrethe II of Denmark appointed a new government following the centre-left victory in the general election on 16 September and the Social Democrats’, the Danish Social Liberal Party’s and the Socialist People’s Party reaching a government agreement yesterday.
After the new government had been appointed by the Queen at Amalienborg, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt drove to the Prime Minister’s Office at Christiansborg, where her predecessor Lars Løkke Rasmussen was in tears as he handed over the reins of government.
While the leader of the Social Democrats is obviously Prime Minister, the Danish Social Liberal Party’s Margrethe Vestager was appointed Home and Economics Minister and the Socialist People’s Party’s leader Villy Søvndal Foreign Minister. The Social Democrats keep the post of Finance Minister for themselves, a post which was given to Bjarne Corydon following the spectacular end a few days ago of the political career of the obvious candidate Henrik Sass Larsen.
The new cabinet consists of 23 ministers, of whom eleven are Social Democrats, six from the Danish Social Liberal Party and six from the Socialist People’s Party. It is the first time in Danish history that these three parties form a government together (indeed the Socialist People’s Party has never been part of a cabinet before).
Only 39 % of the ministers are women, but the new cabinet is noteworthy for including the youngest minister in Danish history, 26-year-old Thor Möger Pedersen of the Socialist People’s Party, who becomes Minister of Taxes. Indeed there are now two ministers in their twenties, as 29-year-old Astrid Krag from the same party becomes Minister of Health. For the first time there is also a minister of non-European origins, as Manu Sareen of the Danish Social Liberal Party (of Indian origins) becomes Minister of Gender Equality, Church and Nordic Cooperation.
The new government has difficult times ahead of it, not only because of the chaotic economy left behind by the outgoing government, but also because of its parliamentary basis, which means that it will be dependent on the Red-Green Alliance to achieve a parliamentary majority. This may prove a challenge given that there are some significant differences in opinion between the three parties of the government and between them and their support party.
But however this turns out, 3 October 2011 will for always mark a milestone in the history of Denmark not only because it ended ten years of the exceptional circumstances under which the country was governed by a rightwing coalition dependent on the extreme right wing, but also because it marks the day when Denmark got its first female Prime Minister.