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Denmark continued to face controversy and attacks in 2010 related to the infamous Muhammad cartoons published in 2005. In January, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard escaped an assassination attempt by an assailant with suspected ties to the Shabaab, an Islamist militant group in Somalia. Changes made to Denmark’s immigration laws in 2010 were criticized by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for unfairly penalizing vulnerable refugees seeking asylum.
Denmark has been a monarchy since the Middle Ages, but after the promulgation of its first democratic constitution in 1849, the monarch’s role became largely ceremonial. The country was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II despite its attempts to maintain neutrality, and in 1949, it joined NATO. In 1973, Denmark became a member of the European Economic Community, forerunner of the European Union (EU).
Postwar Danish politics have been dominated by the Social Democratic Party. However, in the 2001 elections, a right-wing coalition led by Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s Liberal Party won control by pledging to reduce immigration and lower taxes. The coalition, which also included the Conservative People’s Party, was supported by the anti-immigrant and Euroskeptic Danish People’s Party. Denmark has had a conflicted relationship with the EU, rejecting the bloc’s 1992 Maastricht Treaty on justice, foreign, and monetary policy and opting not to adopt the euro as its sole currency in 2000.
The Liberals won reelection in 2005, maintaining their coalition with the Conservatives and receiving external support from the Danish People’s Party. Prime Minister Rasmussen was returned to office again in the 2007 elections, with the Liberals, Conservatives, and Danish People’s Party receiving 45, 18, and 25 seats, respectively. The Social Democrats captured 45 seats, and the Socialist People’s Party, one of the smaller opposition parties, more than doubled its share of seats, from 11 to 23. Rasmussen officially resigned his post in April 2009 after being named NATO secretary general; he was replaced by finance minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (no relation).
In October 2009, two men were arrested in Chicago in connection with a terrorist plot to bomb the offices of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which had printed controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2005. Surveillance video had shown the men visiting two Jyllands-Posten offices over the course of the year. One of those arrested, Pakistani American David Headley, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to planning a terrorist attack on Jyllands-Posten,as well as participating in the planning of the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India.
The cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who had drawn the most contentious of the Muhammad cartoons, was attacked in his home in January 2010 by a Somali assailant wielding an axe and a knife. Westergaard escaped unharmed, and the intruder, Mohamed Geele, was apprehended by police. Geele, who was believed to have ties to the Shabaab, an Islamist militant group based in Somalia, was scheduled to face trial in January 2011.
In September, a small bomb exploded in a hotel in central Copenhagen, causing little material damage but injuring the alleged bomber. Danish police, who apprehended the suspect, a Chechen man, several hours later, theorized that Jyllands-Posten had been the intended target of the failed attack.
Denmark is an electoral democracy. The current constitution, adopted in 1953, established a single-chamber parliament (the Folketing) and retained a monarch, currently Queen Margrethe II, with mostly ceremonial duties. The parliament’s 179 representatives are elected at least once every four years through a system of modified proportional representation. The leader of the majority party or coalition is usually chosen to be prime minister by the monarch. Danish governments most often control a minority of seats in the parliament, ruling with the aid of one or more supporting parties. Since 1909, no single party has held a majority of seats, helping to create a tradition of compromise.