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ELECTION DAY – Copenhagen’s local elections from a French perspective! – By Floriane Laumond

Green Agenda, green agenda and green agenda! I was amazed to see how each party, each candidate even stands for it as THE priority. Of course, they don’t stand for the same transition, but everyone wants to achieve the goal of Copenhagen becoming the first carbon neutral capital by 2025.

Candidates’ pictures are hanging everywhere in the streets… no really eco-friendly…

Electoral facts and figures in Copenhagen: did you know that 1 seat for the city council represents around 4 000 votes in Copenhagen?

Before talking about programmes, ambitions for the city, let’s try to understand a bit the Danish system in terms of local elections. Local elections mean both elections for the city council which included 55 seats for Copenhagen and, for the regional council. The city takes care of public schools, housing, infrastructure, jobs, nightlife, and the environment when the region is mostly in charge of hospitals and the environment as well. I am focusing mainly on the city level, even if what follows applies to both. Every Dane is eligible to vote once he turns 18 and as a European citizen, we are eligible to vote according to the same rule! For non-EU citizens, they need to stay at least for 4 years in the country before being able to vote for the local elections (it’s 10 years for everyone except Danes, for the national elections). Around 100 000 expats out of around 600 000 inhabitants (not even voters) in the city are eligible to vote but only 21% are effectively going to vote, when 70% of the Danes are. In other words, we can make a difference as an expat in this city. Roughly a quarter of the voters are expats but only a twentieth goes to the polls. I personally think it’s a pity but what impresses me is that the Danish candidates themselves think it’s a pity. Of course, I didn’t meet all of them, (there are almost 300 of them actually), but we can notice that many candidates are young, from both genders and progressive regardless of the party they are running for. Copenhagen aims to become an international city which means they want international citizens to come, stay and be integrated, by willing to vote for instance. Considering the number of people who are effectively going to the polling station to vote, 1 seat in this city represents around 4 000 votes. We can easily imagine the weight of our vote, it does matter!

Why is it important to vote for a candidate when they all are representing a party and grouped in a same list? Let’s try to understand the Danish electoral system and the main differences with the French one.

We can say there are nine main parties in Denmark, and we can vote either for a party or for a candidate. According to the candidates themselves, we should always vote for a candidate and not for a party because even a candidate can disagree with his own party. A candidate is not forced to agree with his party and once he is elected, he may vote against some of its policies or for some others not supported by his party. It is also theoretically possible in France but not well seen. I was surprised by this, but I think one candidate explained it right. He said we stand as a unique person and even if everyone follows a kind of ideology in a party, everyone has his own thoughts and opinions. If he chose his party it was because he felt closer to its proposals than to any others from any other parties. It feels right indeed to think that each person has his own opinion and stand as a unique person, I mean it feels right to not always agree or to not always disagree with the others. In France, parties make blocks as entities, most of the time, there is no room for a personal thought. That feels wrong but, it could create a scandal if it were to be done otherwise. In Denmark, it feels right but it is in a way easier for them. We can notice indeed that parties seems to be extremely similar in comparison with what we can see in France. All stand for climate transition before 2025 for the city which is not the case in France. Of course, we can draw a line from the right to the left but differences between left and right in Denmark remain less different than between left and right in France. Maybe it is due to the fact they are used to work together in coalition, maybe not. But we can really tell they are able to make compromises, because almost every time they answer a question after another candidate, they start by “I agree with him but”. It is quite impressive. First, they don’t diverge that much, then they are able to agree with each other. In France, unfortunately and according to me, parties are more fighting against each other even when they could agree than working together. It doesn’t help to move forward unless you have the majority. Meaning also that only the party that get the majority is able to make a difference… it is a shame.

This fact is even more impressive in Denmark when we know that every candidate even if he is affiliated to a party, runs for the election against each other. Each candidate has his own programme and is supported by different persons. If you were to meet someone from a party which is not running for the election in the street, he will tell you, “you should vote for my candidate”. Meaning the one he is supporting. It could be compared to a primary before the presidential election in France: at that time were a unique candidate needs to be chosen to represent the party but still, it is another thing that diverges because here several candidates from the same party are going to be elected. It is different from the local elections we are used to in France but also from any other elections we could see. For the local elections in France, we vote indeed for a list which represent a party and then seats will be accorded from the head of the list to the bottom depending on the votes. Here each party forms a list but the number 18 could be elected before the number 15 and the number 14 could not be elected at all. The number 1 still have more chances to get a seat since some people should vote for his party and he will be the first to get the party’s votes he needs. That is also why, one thing that remains important here is to vote for a candidate more than for a party. Otherwise, the most experienced (so often the oldest ones) who are leading the list will be elected when the less experienced (so often the youngest ones) won’t get a seat. It is very interesting to see how they establish a list, kind of a ranking but at the same time they let the possibility to the voters to make it change! We don’t see this at all in France, either we vote for a list, and we need to agree with the ranking, or there is a unique candidate per party we can vote for.

When candidates complain about their city which is already amazing (at least in comparison with many cites in France): A permanent dissatisfaction that leads to always more actions for the better.

It is so funny to see how candidate complain about Copenhagen, in terms of environment, in terms of jobs, in terms of transport mostly while they are already so far ahead in these areas than many other countries. I like their dissatisfaction with what is already very good but could be even better. As I told you and to caricature, they all agree with the same ideas more or less. For instance, the extremes on the left-wing want to get cars out of the city right away because of environmental reasons but also because it is unfair. It is always the richest that pollute and the poorest that suffer. The justice advocated by the left. In the middle, the socio-liberal would like first to find a sustainable solution such as electrical cars or a better public transport network before getting rid of polluting cars. Personally, I find their public transports amazing (except when I get a fine lol…). From a right-wing perspective, they also stand for less polluting cars because of environmental reasons but also for security reasons. More metro, more electric cars, less polluting cars… at the end Copenhagen won’t emit greenhouse gas but for achieving this, it will…

Some complaints I found funny from a French perspective.

The conservative party stands for increasing the security budget because we don’t see enough policemen during the night in Copenhagen. Super funny because Copenhagen has been acknowledged as the safest city in the world recently. I look like a 10-year-old girl and was never ever feeling unsafe during the night alone in Copenhagen. In this kind of statement, we can feel the right-wing footprint, because there is no need for safety in Copenhagen at least in comparison with so many places in the world, but they always want more. I found also funny the fact they were complaining about their “job centre” that didn’t provide any one with a job for the last 2 years. Maybe but first, there is a very little unemployment and wages are very high (even if taxes as well). Moreover, everything is made, when someone is looking for a job, for him to be able to attest constantly his skills, to help him finding training courses and not stay inactive, so remain employable. That were only few examples of what they do good but feel like it is a shit. Nevertheless, I admire their permanent dissatisfaction which leads to always more improvements or at least actions.

Copenhagen’s biggest issue: housing.

One concern in Copenhagen remains housing. Finding a place to live in Copenhagen can become a nightmare because it is so expensive and there are not enough places to live in comparison with the number of people that would like to move in the city. We could have thought the main issue would be the taxes because they are also very high, but it is not. People don’t seem to fight against. It must be said that even with the taxes and the very high cost of living, the purchasing power remains great here. Nonetheless, regarding the renting issue, candidates as always agree things need to be changed but we can see more divergences from the right to the left. Right-wing would like to see more new private buildings to rebalance supply and demand. While left-wing would like to see more new public houses because, when it is public, cities can choose the price and it will provide more people with a place to live as well. This system is called Andelsbolig and I am not sure we have the same in France. Denmark also provides some social houses as we know in France, but it is something else than the system I am talking about. Another great thing they have in my opinion!

All about high taxes: the example of cars.

Do you know that if you are going to buy a car in Denmark you will buy it almost twice its price because of taxes? If you import a car from any other countries, it is like you will pay it a second time while arriving in Denmark because of taxes. It is because of environmental reasons but also because Denmark has never developed its own car industries. That is also why infrastructures for bikes where developed. It was possible because Copenhagen is a little and flat city and people are educated in a way to see in the bicycles, freedom and good health. I can tell you that is more than true: the fastest way to travel within the city is the bicycle and the most efficient way to work out every day is to do it while moving from one place to another as part as our daily routine. Otherwise we get tired, time flies or whatever…

You will surely have understood it, city’s political agenda is mainly focusing on 3 issues: the Green Transition, the Job Market and the Housing Market. Some facts and improvement’s room.

Green transition: Copenhagen’s CO2 emissions have fallen by 43% since 2011, but there is still some way to go to reach the goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. In 2019, CO2 emissions amounted to 1.02 million tonnes. In 2020, the recycling rate in the municipality of Copenhagen is 41%.

Job market: Since 2008, the Capital Region has seen an increase in the share of foreign employees from 7.8 percent to 13.2 percent in 2020. As said, Copenhagen aims to become an international capital which means the city needs to make international citizens stay. For instance, even if there is not many unemployment, candidates consider efforts have to be made regarding English. Everyone speaks English here and it is possible to find a job even if you don’t speak Danish, but they always want more: they would like to see the Danish administration translating everything in English for instance.

Housing market: Housing market across Copenhagen have only risen in the last 10 years. The biggest increase has been in Nørrebro, where the average price per square metre of condominiums has risen by 105% over the period. In the period 2008 to 2020, a total of 4,106 new public housing units have been built. Since 2012, 5,980 youth housing units have been commissioned.

Even if I was being a bit sarcastic about their complaints those issues are real. Things need to be done. One concrete example is that Copenhagen lacks nurses and teachers because either the city is not attractive enough for international citizens to come or it is impossible for people to find or afford a place to live.

Let’s see in the near future after the election, how the green transition will be proceeded in order to achieve the carbon neutrality by 2025, how English should become even more important in the city in order to fulfil the goal of international capital, and what will be done in terms of housing to see everyone accommodated and make prices decrease.

Last zoom on the election day – Who will get the last seats?

One more thing that remains a mystery for almost everyone is how the votes are counted. It is going to be easy for the first seats: in a list, high-demanded candidates are going to be elected with both party’s votes and personal’s votes. But what’s happening when a party or a candidate got some additional votes but not enough to get one more seat, who will get the last seats? The candidates themselves are not able to explain this. There is a mathematic system that works apparently very well but that no one is able to explain. Because of this, it is impossible to say before the election night who will get those last seats. In that sense your vote might go to another party or candidate that the one you voted for. The party can nonetheless decide to join forces so that their last votes are counted together. In other words, if you vote for a candidate from a left party your vote should go for a left party and vice versa.

By Floriane Laumond, 16 November 2021

Categories: Uncategorized

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