It has been a week in which the Danish parliamentarian system has been exposed – and some observers think compromised. Its system of negative parliamentarism has demonstrated that even a small party of six seats can wield considerable power and win.
The mouse that roared
The winner is Konservative leader Pape Poulsen, who as leader of the smallest support party for the Venstre minority government has managed to force the food and agriculture minister, Eva Kjær Hansen, to resign.
Poulsen had a no-confidence statement prepared and stated he was willing to support a motion from the red bloc later this week. That left the PM with no option but to sacrifice his minister or resign himself with the whole government along.
With or without a new general election, the outcome would have been murky.
A controversial package
Few, however, understood the issue at hand: a new framework for farmers and their environmental behaviour. Restrictions on fertilisers have reduced the quality of Danish barley and wheat so it cannot be used for beer brewing or bread for that matter. It is only fit for animal food and then only with supplementary soy that has to be imported from overseas at the expense of a lot of CO2 emissions.
Basically the new set-up will allow some farmers to fertilise to the max while others will be restricted in an attempt to reduce or at least stabilise CO2 and nitrogen emission into the sea and increase the economy of a farming society under enormous pressure from the banks and the common market.
The new set-up will have an impact, but of what kind?
One thing is clear. It will lead to a lot of abstract calculations that will be perused by the EU Commission for compliance with EU policy.
The government claims that increased emissions over the next two to four years are to be expected, but that the overall result will be a decrease in emissions over time. When and how much is still in dispute, but the minister refused to deviate from her original statements and Konservative, which had already promised its support, wanted her to admit to at least some uncertainty.
Made on a whim
She didn’t, leading to their threat of a previously unthinkable vote of no-confidence against a minister in a government they support. Let’s be clear: Konservative has 3.4 percent of the electorate, just 49,000 votes above what is needed to obtain parliamentarian representation or face elimination from an election. This mouse that roared could have brought down the government. That’s high stakes indeed.
Poulsen has shown he is willing to tumble a blue government with help from the red bloc – all because he felt a minister was being arrogant, despite his party already pledging its support for the package. A decision made on a whim like this hardly suggests prospective voters have anything concrete to hang their hat on.
It was a strange game of chicken alright – an unbecoming game in which the prime minister blinked first.