The Danish Parliament joins other legislatures which have a large national flag hanging vertically behind the Speaker’s chair. This change, announced to be a temporary solution only, is the cause of heated debate.
Today, October 4th, is the official opening of the Danish parliament, the Folketing. According to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Denmark the legislative session begins every year on the first Tuesday in October and the Prime Minister holds the State of the Realm Speech in parliament.
H.M. the Queen of Denmark is the guest of honour at the official opening of parliament. She is received by the Speaker, or President, of the Folketing and sits in the visitors’ gallery together with other members of the royal family, especially those Princes and Princesses of Denmark who are in the line of succession and sometimes act as Regents of the Realm, for example when the Queen is traveling abroad.
For some time the parliamentary meeting hall in the Palace of Christiansborg, Copenhagen, is being refurbished and modernized. Therefore, the tapestry usually hanging behind the Speaker’s chair has been taken down. If only a temporary solution, the decision to replace the tapestry with a large swallow-tailed national flag has been the cause of debate in the news and on social media.
Some accuse the Speaker of being overly patriotic. Deputy Speaker Christian Juhl of the left-wing Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) has criticized the choice and accuses the Speaker of politicizing the Danish flag. Speaker Pia Kjærsgaard was the leader of the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) for 17 years.
In the last 24 hours the Speaker herself as well as many other Danish politicians have backed the decision and reject all criticism: How can it be deemed wrong to fly the national flag prominently in the national assembly? they ask.
The presence of a national flag, hoisted on a flag pole or hanging vertically behind the Speaker’s chair, is common practice in a large number of legislatures around the world. Hanging flags are part of the decoration in e.g. the United States House of Representatives, in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, in the House of Representatives of the Philippines, in the Swedish Riksdag, in the Polish Sejm and in the Lithuanian Seimas.
The use of a swallow-tailed Danish flag in the Folketing also seem to confuse and cause debate. It is correct that the swallow-tailed version of the flag of Denmark, the so-called splitflag, is first and foremost used by the royal family, the Danish armed forces and state authorities, but there is a long list of exceptions from this rule.
The Danish parliament is among those non-military and non-state institutions which use the splitflag. Many seem to have forgotten that the Folketing has always flown the swallow-tailed Dannebrog, both outdoors and indoors.