Frank Jensen could have been forgiven for being a little apprehensive ahead of yesterday’s election. The Social Democrat (Socialdemokratiet) Lord Mayor has controlled Copenhagen City Hall for the past eight years, and has invested in making the city CO2 neutral by 2025, providing cheaper and more convenient day care, and better cycling and public transport infrastructure.
But it’s not a threat from the right that he faced, but from his own left wing. The Social Liberal Party (Radikale), Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), Socialist People’s Party (SF) and The Alternative (Alternative) have warned the mayor that his policies aren’t quite green enough. If the four parties could secure 28 of the 55 seats in City Hall, they could have formed a ‘red-green’ alliance without him.
It wasn’t to be, and the parties fell one seat short. As leader of City Hall’s largest party, it fell to Jensen to lead negotiations on how to split the political roles in City Hall, which resulted in a broad agreement that included parties on both sides of the aisle.
“Everyone has chosen me [as Lord Mayor],” Jensen told assembled journalists on Tuesday night. “It’s historic that we have secured a deal in Copenhagen City Hall with all the myths that swirl about this place – that we trip each other up and stab each other in the back. All the parties have signed this deal.”
It was a good election for the left wing. Despite losing a seat, Socialdemokratiet remained the largest in City Hall with fifteen seats, followed by Enhedslisten who kept 11. Alternativet were voted the third largest party with ten percent of the vote, earning them six seats. Radikale and SF each lost a seat to earn five.
“Its been a historic night and I cant believe it went as well as it did,” Alternativet leader Niko Grünfeld stated
For the right wing, it was a dismal evening. Earlier this year Venstre members ditched their former leading candidate Pia Allerslev in favour of Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard, whose more liberal profile would attract more voters – they hoped. The strategy backfired, and Venstre only won 7.8 percent of the vote, down from 11.4 percent in 2013, losing them two seats in City Hall.
“Our result certainly isn’t amazing. But it is satisfactory because we remain the biggest right wing party in Copenhagen,” Lonning-Skovgaard told Politiken.
While Liberal Alliance and the Conservative People’s Party (Konservativer) remained stable and kept their two and three seats respectively, the Danish People’s Party (DF) shed 2.4 percentage points, shrunk to 5 percent and lost a seat. In total, the right wing secured only 18 percent of the vote and 13 of the 55 seats.
The division of political posts in City Hall is slightly complicated, but is based on a proportional system called d’Hondt. Copenhagen City Hall is divided into seven administrations, each led by a political committee and its own mayor. These are divided up between the parties, with each taking a turn to choose their preferred administration based on the election result.
DF is the only party to lose control of an administration due to their poor performance in the election – their leading candidate Carl Christian Ebbesen has been responsible for the Culture and Leisure Administration for the past four years. In their place, Alternativet have earned the right to run an administration.
Leader of the Finance Administration is Lord Mayor, a position that Frank Jensen keeps. Enhedslisten then chose to continue their control of the Technical and Environmental Administration that is responsible for traffic policies and infrastructure. The Socialdemokratiet earned third choice and have chosen the Child and Youth Administration.
Next to pick an administration is Alternativet, followed by Venstre, Radikale and SF. But as of writing this, it’s uncertain who is picking what. On election night, Grünfeld announced that he would be taking the Culture and Leisure Administration. This elicited a strong reaction from left wing voters. The fear is that Venstre will take control of the Employment and Integration Administration, which could result in a crack down on unemployed residents, and disruption to integration programmes. Venstre’s Lonning-Skovgaard has voiced strong views on the integration challenges facing Copenhagen.
For now, it’s uncertain whether Alternativet will reconsider their decision to keep the administration away from the right wing.
Despite the dramatics, it looks like a continuation of the status quo in Copenhagen. Frederiksberg – the municipal enclave within the city – will also see a continuation of 108 years of Konservative rule. But only by the finest of margins. The right wing bloc supporting Konservative mayor Jørgen Glenthøj only won by 168 votes.
We will have a full update in the next issue of The Murmur.