Tuesday, 11 October 2011

New Danish government wants to remove monarch from Constitution

Berlingske today reports that the new Danish government, made up of the Social Democrats, the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People’s Party, has decided to set up a commission to consider a revision of the Constitution, which will aim at removing the monarch from it and including the human rights.
The current Constitution, which received the royal assent on 5 June 1953 (pictured above), has not been altered since and to do so will require a referendum in which at least 40 % of the entire electorate (not only those actually voting) will have to vote in favour of the amendments.
I suppose “removing the monarch from the Constitution” means that one desires literally to change those articles which say “the King” where one actually means the government. However, as the referendum about changing the Act of Succession two years ago showed, this might easily be like opening a can of worms and lead to a more extensive debate on the monarchy.
As recently as last year an opinion poll showed a majority in favour of scrapping the monarch’s right to appoint the government and sign bills into law, thus reducing the Danish monarchy to a merely symbolic institution like its Swedish counterpart (an arrangement Queen Margrethe has earlier said she would find difficult).
The European Convention of Human Rights has the status of an ordinary law and it has long been the wish of several parties to include it in the Constitution itself, which would also mean that it could not simply be scrapped by a parliamentary vote.
It appears from Berlingske’s report that the Danish Social Liberal Party is the driving force behind these revisions, but that the Social Democrats and the Socialist People’s Party are in full agreement with their coalition partner. However, the two parties which were just ejected from the government offices, the Liberal Party and the Conservatives, see no reason for amending the Constitution, while a spokesman for the right-wing extremist Danish People’s Party, which has earlier described human rights as left-wing values, says they will not “under no circumstances” contribute to such changes.


  1. I understand the idea of a purely ornamental monarchy, but would the "head of state" be listed at all? Would s/he, for example, be listed as the person to whom ambassadors are accredited and who accredits Danish ones? Even the Swedish constitution mentions the head of state.

  2. I find it hard to see how they could remove every reference to the King. Chapter II, which governs the King's age of majority, religion, oath, acceptance of foreign thrones et al, would probably have to be retained with the article in Chapter I which states that Denmark is a constitutional monarchy.

    In the rest of the Constitution they could easily replace "the King" with "the government", for instance in the articles saying that the King may propose bills to Parliament, call new elections etc., as "the King" in these cases actually means the government.

    As far as I know the Danish Constitution says nothing about who receives or accredits ambassadors.

    The Norwegian Constitution is similar to the Danish in that "the King" frequently actually means the "government". The Swedish Constitution of 1975 has cleared this up. It says that a king or queen who hold the throne by virtue of the Act of Succession is head of state, but otherwise it uses the terms "the King or Queen who is Head of State" or simply "the Head of State". But when it means the government it says so.


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