Real Danish Political Drama!

596px-Copenhagen_City_Hall

Political intrigue in Copenhagen’s City Hall

The results are almost in and I confess that I’ve been finding these Danish local elections rather exciting.  OK, they’re not quite Borgen and certainly not The Killing.  But over at Copenhagen’s City Hall there is a real-life political drama going on over who controls what.

With so many parties, Danish politics is complicated.  But that’s what makes it so interesting.  Coalition means deals and it looks like everyone’s at it.  Copenhagen’s Mayor Frank Jensen, from the Social Democrats, keeps his top seat, but only thanks to support from two other parties (Enhedslisten and Socialistisk Folkeparti).

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The election may be over, but there’s still politics to play for

And it doesn’t stop there.  There are another SIX mayors to choose, each with his/her own fiefdom.  Parties have formed blocs as they fight to have a seat around the mayoral table.  According to the Copenhagen Post, the sticking points have been over who gets the Traffic and Environment Administration (TEA) and who gets the Integration and Employment Administration (IEA).

The centrist party Radikale was apparently offered the TEA, if it joined the main opposition bloc.  Although this is considered a prize position at City Hall, the party turned it down.  It  didn’t want the anti-immigration party Dansk Folkeparti (DF) to take control of Integration and Employment – which was part of the deal.

So instead the left-wing Enhedslisten party has secured mayoral control of Traffic and Environment.  This is a party that’s pro bikes and anti-car, infuriating those on the right who believe business will suffer.

The rest will be decided over the next few days. Exciting isn’t it? Or is it just me?!

A Footnote: Turnout in these local and regional elections was almost 72%. That’s more than 6 points higher than in 2009.  So allowing people to cast early ballots in places like McDonald’s restaurants (see my earlier post here) must have helped.  Something to be noted in countries like the UK perhaps?

If you’re really interested, watch my TV report for Al Jazeera English on this very subject.

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Voting in my first Danish Election

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My local polling station

It’s not quite Borgen I’m afraid, but I have just voted in Denmark’s local and regional elections.  In Copenhagen there are SEVEN mayors, not to mention all those councillors.  One though, the Lord Mayor, is the overall boss.  So the system is pretty different to the UK.

Once I’d handed over my voting card at a school set up as a polling station, I was given two long pieces of paper with so many names and parties on them, it was quite intimidating.

This country is all about coalition politics, but actually voting today was pretty simple.  I had to mark one cross on each paper – either beside a party or a candidate.  I must thank the Copenhagen Post for explaining to us foreigners eligible to vote, what each party stands for.

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Candidates I filmed with last week

Still, even those on the right of Danish politics are on the whole pretty left.  With a huge welfare state to support and taxes to go with it, most parties back the status quo – hardly surprising when everyone has to work in coalition.

But there are differences – from transport to business; from the treatment of foreigners to spending the massive city budget.  In Copenhagen at least, much of this election has been about the bike verses the car.

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Bike vs Car has become an election issue

Unlike say London, here the bike appears to take preference over anything else on the roads.  Now I’m a new convert to cycling (click here to see my previous post).  But many argue that Copenhagen’s love affair with the bike is to the detriment of motorists and in turn business.

I’m not sure if I will notice a difference in Copenhagen after these elections.  But I’m grateful that I at least had the chance to vote.

 

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Even I can vote in Denmark

Me interviewing

Interviewing a Danish candidate

On Monday, while filming a report for Al Jazeera English, I met some of the candidates standing in next week’s local and regional elections here in Denmark.  What struck me most was just how young they were.

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A political debate

Take Caroline – just 22 and already fully immersed in Danish politics.  She was one of five taking part in a debate in Copenhagen’s Central Station, sponsored by McDonald’s.  (See my earlier post about this global company’s involvement in the elections.)

These candidates really believe in the political system and in particular, working in a coalition.  By their own admission, they often get on better with those in opposing parties, than those in their own.

Kristoffer Beck, Chairman of KU

Kristoffer Beck, Chairman of KU

I also met Kristoffer Beck, the Chairman of KU, the Conservative Youth party.  I just had to get a photo of him standing next to the picture of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.  This guy knows his stuff – even what’s going on in British politics.

But unlike the UK, it’s not considered ‘geeky’ for young people to be into politics in Denmark.  Yes they’re worried about falling voter turnout, but with 65.8% of those who could, voting at the last local and regional elections, the figure looks pretty high.

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My voting card

Here people are actively encouraged to vote – even me.  I’ve just had my voting card through, even though I’ve only been here for a few months.  If I wanted to, I could cast an early ballot at a number of mobile polling stations.  Really, there’s no excuse not to vote here.  So I’ll be interested to see how many actually do.

Failing hurts – whatever they say!

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After six weeks of Danish lessons, I took my first test on Monday to see if I could move on to the next module.  I admit it wasn’t great, but I thought parts of my written paper were pretty good.  The teacher thought otherwise.  When we had our ‘chat’ on Wednesday evening, it began with Karin telling me with a sad look on her face: “Well the test didn’t go so well”.  Her advice?  That I had to start all over again.  In other words, I failed.

Although it doesn’t really matter, because I am voluntarily putting myself through this pain twice a week, with many more hours spent on homework, I was really disappointed.  I didn’t show it to the other (brilliant) students – who all seem to speak hundreds of other languages.  But inside I was mortified and felt completely humiliated.  I’m not used to failing.

Of course, I could easily give up altogether.  But as I am expecting Charlie, our three year old son, to start speaking Danish at his forest school, I have to keep going.  So despite the desire to quit, I have just signed up for a new class.  It begins next Tuesday – after a day’s work reporting for Al Jazeera.  I’m not looking forward to it.  But as the saying goes:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  I’m trying!

Where’s Sarah Lund when you need her?

Photo: Waxonian

Photo: Waxonian

Followers of my blog will know that I had my wallet stolen on a busy bus in Copenhagen last week.  Somebody unzipped my handbag and took it while I was sitting with a child on my knee.  It was around 16.30 on Friday afternoon.

I realised pretty quickly what had happened, but was paralysed for a couple of minutes before I reacted.  I just couldn’t believe it.  We told the bus driver who made an announcement, but by then most people had already got off.  Still, we had a lot of information to report to the police – or so we thought.

When my husband called Kobenhavn Politi from the bus to report the crime (about five minutes after it had happened) the response was… email us.  As soon as we got home, we filled in a crime report on-line.  I followed it up with a personal email.

The weekend came and went, Monday too.  Then finally yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) I called Copenhagen police myself.  A helpful woman asked me to resend the emails and said she would get back to me.  She did – with this email…

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So even though I knew on which bus route I was travelling and the approximate time of the theft; even though we’d told the bus driver and could see there was a camera on board, Copenhagen Police say there’s nothing they can do.  It’s up to me – a victim of crime – to investigate this myself.  So where is Sarah Lund when you need her?

I keep reminding myself of the kind gesture made by one of the passengers.  She offered me 200 kroner as I was getting off the bus.  That was really touching.

Crime in Copenhagen – a personal experience

I am very sad to report that I have just had my wallet stolen in Copenhagen.  I was on board a busy local bus with some friends and had just sat down when I realised my bag had been unzipped and my wallet had gone.  It was 16.30.

Cards, cash, driving licence are some of the things that have been taken. But what I’m most disappointed about is that Copenhagen is supposed to be a low crime city.  And yet in just a couple of months, my husband has had his bike stolen from outside his work and now I have been targeted.  We have never experienced personal crime in London – a capital city where we would expect it.

The bus driver made an announcement about my wallet and as we got off, a woman offered me 200 kroner.  That’s the Copenhagen I love.  What a pity that when it comes to crime, this capital is like too many others.