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Denmark Election 2019: What to learn from the best election system in the world

Is this the best election campaign system in the world….probably

Denmark has the best election system in the world according to an independent research body affilliated to Harvard University and the University of Sydney. But what makes Denmark such a leader in this essential element of democracy?
Firstly, election campaigns are very short at just three to four weeks and elections are generally fought on issues. There is little of the opposition research and attack advertising that is so prominent in US elections. TV advertising is, in fact, banned and voter outreach is done in person or through posters and social media. Voter turnout is enviably high at about 85% reflecting a political culture that sees voting as an social obligation.

Proportional representation

Denmark operates a proportional representation system of voting which is similar to that in Sweden, Germany and New Zealand. Parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats get distributed to each party in proportion to the number of votes the party receives. There are a relatively large number of parties considering the size of the country that form into opposing blocs for the purposes of forming a government. For that reason one single party never has total control of government. Leader’s debates in the run-up to election ensure relevant issues get debated publicly. The election system therefore benefits from good structural elements and a good political culture.

The match-up: Red V Blue

In 2019 the election fight is between incumbents Venstre and their supporting bloc, the Blue bloc (Conservatives) and the Social Democrats with their Red bloc (Progressives/Left wing). The Social Democrats are currently the largest party in parliament and it will be an interesting contest to see how the debate develops, particularly in the context of populist ideas being so powerful in recent European elections.

Spending in Danish elections

Political party spending in Denmark has traditionaly been on posters, leaflets, local organising and social media. Television advertising is banned and all parties support this. The spending profile has changed in recent times with more money being channelled into social media advertising and spending on data insights, as has been seen in most other countries. The reason for this might be that social media ad spend is a really easy way to track spending and its impact compared to traditional ‘broadcast’ marketing like posters and billboards.

Challenges for 2019

For political parties in Denmark the 2019 election presents a big challenge in a number of areas:

  • Danish elections are extremely competitive with a couple of thousand votes either way being the deciding factor in many constituencies. Messaging is crucial in an issue based election campaign so parties need to know what messaging is going to work. With margins between success and failure so tight parties are having to do extensive research and testing of their messaging in advance of election campaigns.

  • GDPR compliance is a new issue for most parties and is changing the relationship between parties and purchased data sets. It is also a challenge in trying to figure out how to understand and communicate with voters when you have to be so careful in holding any personally identifiable voter data.

  • Party membership figures have been falling for the past 60 years so onboarding new supporters and mobilizing existing members is a critical challenge. Party memberships in the bigger parties are around 40K and the parties that can activate these members into their election campaigns will probably be successful.

If you would like to see our white paper on how to activate supporters in Denmark just click [here]https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ecanvasser.com/blog/Danish+PDF+final+(3).pdf).

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