Dane becomes first foreigner elected mayor of major German city

Danish businessman Claus Ruhe Madsen became the first non-German to win the mayor's office in a major German city Sunday with his election victory in Rostock.

Dane becomes first foreigner elected mayor of major German city
Claus Ruhe Madsen on the campaign trail. Photo: DPA

Madsen, an independent, claimed about 57 percent of the vote in a run-off ballot in the northern city, beating Steffen Bockhahn of the far-left Linke with around 43 percent.

Copenhagen-born Madsen, 46, has lived in Germany since 1992 and settled two decades ago in Rostock on the Baltic Sea. However he has never taken a German passport.

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

He has led the local chamber of commerce for six years and ran a campaign promising “pragmatic” politics and a strong ecological stance.

Madsen was able to maintain his lead from the first ballot three weeks ago when he won 34.6 percent of the vote against eight other candidates, while Bockhahn won 18.9 percent. The second round was held because no candidate received more than half of the votes.

'Stuck in the past'

As The Local reported, Madsen's campaign was based on modernizing Rostock, a harbour city on the Baltic Sea coast which he said was “stuck in the past”.

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

That would 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 said he wanted to build a new theatre in Rostock.

Madsen, who sports a prominent beard and sharp business suits, had pledged to hand over management of five furniture stores he owns to his wife should he be elected.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


‘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.