The Dane who wants to be mayor of a German city – and how he plans to modernize it

46-year-old Dane Claus Ruhe Madsen has won the first round of the election to become lord mayor of the city of Rostock in northern Germany.

The Dane who wants to be mayor of a German city – and how he plans to modernize it
Dane Claus Ruhe Madsen won almost 35 percent of votes in the first round of the election for lord mayor in Rostock. Photo: Bernd Wüstneck / Picture Alliance / Ritzau Scanpix

Local elections held on Sunday alongside municipal elections in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern show that Madsen is in with a strong chance of becoming mayor of the city.

With no candidate having received more than half of votes, a second round of voting to decide the winning candidate will be held on June 16th.

Madsen, who is running on a platform of environmentalism and modernization in the city, said he was delighted with the result of the first vote and hopeful about his chances of being elected.

“This is really great. I had no idea how this was going to go. It’s great that so many Rostockers think this is a good idea,” Madsen, who is running as an independent, said to Ritzau.

The Dane received 34.6 percent of votes in Sunday’s first round, with his nearest rival Steffen Bockhahn of Die Linke (the Left Party) on 18.9 percent.

Should the Dane win on June 16th, he will be the first person from north of the border to be elected as Rostock’s mayor.

“It’s really interesting that this will be the first time ever that a foreigner has won the mayoral election in a larger German city. I’m very surprised by this,” he said.

The Dane said he planned to continue campaigning prior to the second vote by going out to meet voters.

“I am going to go out on my bicycle and speak to as many people as possible and listen to the issues that are important to them. It is very important to me to be on the ground and out amongst the public. More so than (being at) political debates,” he said.

Madsen has turned down a number of parties who wished to recruit him as a candidate.

“I find it difficult to fit into a party box,” he told Ritzau.

His political platform is based on modernizing Rostock, a harbour city on the Baltic Sea coast which, according to Madsen, is “stuck in the past”.

He wants to make the city more attractive for companies in other countries around the Baltic Sea, including Denmark and Sweden.

That will be achieved through renovation of the harbour, improving public transport and bicycle lanes, and making the city a climate frontrunner through a series of environmentalist initiatives, according to the Danish candidate’s platform.

Madsen also wants to build a new theatre in Rostock.

His ideas appear to have gained traction in the German city, with the Dane now a clear favourite to come out on top in the second voting round in the mayoral election next month.


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‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.