Who governs? Parties and policies in Denmark



Abstract. The literature on party government, coalition formation, and links between party and policy tends to assume that parties in government command legislative majorities that can be used to enact desired policies. This assumption, however, does not apply in general. In Scandinavia, and especially in Denmark, the minority type of government is predominant. Minority governments cannot govern by means of their own votes. Two questions for research are therefore obvious. Why do Scandinavian countries deviate from the normal pattern of government formation? And what are the consequences of minority government for policy making? While the first question has been treated in recent research, this paper carries the analysis a step further by exploring the policy consequences of minority government in Denmark during the 1980s. It is shown that the government may in fact not always govern, that the government may actually be the opposition, and, consequently, that the party-policy link can indeed be extremely complex.