Professor Michael Bang Petersen to head new audit of Danish Democracy

The Danish Parliament has commissioned a new audit of power and democracy in Denmark. Professor Michael Bang Petersen from the Department of Political Science at Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, will head the research project.

Professor Michael Bang Petersen
Professor Michael Bang Petersen. Photo: Ida Marie Jensen

On the recommendation of Independent Research Fund Denmark, Christina Egelund, minister for higher education and science, has appointed Professor of Political Science Michael Bang Petersen, Aarhus University, as research leader for the new audit.

"Heading up a democratic audit is a big and important task. An investigation of this nature must answer some of the most important societal questions such as who has the power and what is the state of our democracy. And it must answer those questions in a way that meets the highest academic standards, and that can be communicated to, and actively used by, anyone interested in our society," says Michael Bang Petersen.

In September 2022, all parties in the Danish Parliament entered into an agreement on a mandate for an updated audit of power and democracy in Denmark. The original audit, An Analysis of Democracy and Power in Denmark, was completed in 2003, and according to the mandate, societal development since then necessitates an update that will generate new research-based knowledge about the state of democracy and the conditions for democratic processes for the benefit of the public and elected officials.

"It’s almost symbolic that Facebook was created the year after work on the original audit was completed. Political discourse and problem-solving take place under different conditions today, and many have voiced concern that democracy is under threat. Understanding the conditions for democracy in today's high-speed society and helping ensure the continued viability of democracy in the 21st century will be important focus areas for the audit," says Michael Bang Petersen.

Aarhus University takes the reins once more

Peter Munk Christiansen was a member of the leadership team for the first audit and is currently head of the Department of Political Science. He is pleased with the selection of Michael Bang Petersen, who he describes as an academically strong and broad-based research leader.

“I’m proud that the Department of Political Science and Aarhus University will once again play a key role in the audit. The department will support Michael Bang Petersen and the rest of the research leadership team as much as we can to ensure they have the best possible conditions for the new audit of power and democracy. We have a large and very strong research environment within several of the areas that the audit will delve into," says Peter Munk Christiansen.

According to the mandate, the audit must cover three overarching themes:

  • The institutions and political processes of Danish democracy
  • Participation in the democratic community and civil society
  • The development of technology and media and democratic discourse

The researchers have the freedom to define the specific research questions and to introduce supplementary topics.

The audit will take approximately five years to complete.

The parties of the Danish Parliament have so far earmarked DKK 20.8 million for the project and have agreed to allocate additional funding at the same scale in a future Finance Act.