Citizens’ motions to be made a permanent fixture in Denmark
It may be good for grassroots democracy that citizens can petition Parliament to debate an issue, but is it really much more than window-dressing?
A number of Danish MPs obviously think it is, as Parliament has now decided to make the current citizens’ motion system permanent.
A lot of public interest
Since January 2018 it has been possible for a Danish citizen to launch a petition on Parliament’s website. If the petition gets 50,000 signatures or more within a 180-day period, Parliament is obliged to take a debate on the matter.
Up until now, 310 petitions have been launched, attracting the support of around 310,000 citizens, so the scheme appears to be a success, at least according to the speaker of the house, Pia Kjærsgaard.
“There has really been a lot of interest in citizens’ motions. We have a debate in Parliament and it gets media attention that helps the suggestion to mature,” she told DR Nyheder.
However, despite Kjærsgaard’s obvious enthusiasm, not one of the citizens’ motions has resulted in any new legislation or changes to existing legislation.
But ‘thumbs down’ to all
Up until now, three motions have got as far as parliamentary bills, but all have been rejected at their second reading. The three were concerned with doing away with favourable pension schemes for ministers and their children, organ donors being required to opt out instead of opting in, and removing restrictions on students wishing to take multiple degree courses.
In the pipeline are suggestions on a minimum age for circumcising healthy children and new climate initiatives – and it doesn’t appear that either of these will get far either.
“Things don’t always have to end up as a concrete law, but can be up for public debate,” explained Kjærsgaard.
The idea for citizens’ motions came from Alternativet whilst Venstre and Socialdemokratiet have been consistently opposed to the idea. Venstre argues that it has always been possible for an MP to propose a bill in Parliament on the basis of a request from an individual citizen.