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Danish local elections: Six cities set for nail-biting votes for mayor

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish local elections: Six cities set for nail-biting votes for mayor
Borgmesterkandidat i Kolding Eva Kjær Hansen fra Venstre deler valgpropaganda ud tirsdag den 16. november 2021. Den 16. november afholdes der Kommunalvalg og Regionsrådsvalg i Danmark.. (Foto: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix)

Several locations in Denmark have been singled out as locations where fine margins could decide which party gets the job as mayor.

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In some municipalities, mayors from parties usually seen as having a firm grip on local politics are finding themselves under pressure. In others, local politics make the outcome of the November 16th vote unpredictable.

With foreign residents making up almost 1 in 11 eligible voters across Denmark, it’s worth knowing that your votes can make a difference.

We’ve picked out a few areas that could see surprising or close results, but they are by no means the only tight races.

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Frederiksberg

Frederiksberg, the Copenhagen district which is a separate municipality from the rest of the capital, is traditionally a Conservative stronghold when it comes to municipal elections – in fact, Frederiksberg has had a Conservative mayor for 112 years.

But a gradual change in the area’s demographics and disaffection over issues including housing have mayor Simon Aggesen under pressure in the 2021 vote.

“This time it’s really a close race” in Frederiksberg, Professor Ulrik Kjær of the University of Southern Denmark’s of Political Science department said at an election briefing.

Michael Vindfeldt of the Social Democrats is Aggesen’s closest challenger.

Vejle

Vejle in southeastern Jutland, the fifth-largest municipality in Denmark, is also seeing a challenge to its established municipal order.

“They have a right wing mayor from Venstre [Liberal, ed.], but they might tip it to the Social Democratic party, it will be interesting,” Kjær said.

In fact, a good night for the Social Democrats, the governing party in parliament, could even see the eight largest municipalities in Denmark in that party’s hands.

This would need both Frederiksberg and Vejle to change hands, however, so the likelihood of it happening remains a “wild guess”, Kjær admitted.

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Copenhagen

They might be strong in bigger municipalities in general, but the Social Democrats are under pressure in the capital. The party has provided the mayor at Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square) for decades, but is now losing popularity in Copenhagen. Housing and construction on green areas are two key factors in this, Jakob Nielsen, editor-in-chief of Danish political news outlet Altinget, told The Local at the briefing.

The biggest challenge face by the centre-left party comes not from conservative parties, but from the far left in the form of the Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) lead candidate Line Barfod.

“It’s very likely… Enhedslisten will become the biggest party in Copenhagen,” Nielsen said.

However, because no party will win an outright majority, Social Democrat Sophie Hæstorp Andersen is likely to be the city’s mayor after the election as she will be better able to form a majority of parties supporting her candidacy – even if the Red Green Alliance has the largest single-party share.

“But it’s very important to say it could still have consequences if the Social Democrats are no longer the biggest party”, even if they still have the mayor's office, Nielsen noted.

That is because a party with a different ideology can strongly influence areas like awarding contracts for city development or appointments to semi-public companies if it has a majority in Copenhagen's city government, he said.

READ ALSO: A foreigner’s guide to understanding Danish politics in five minutes

Esbjerg

Until the 1990s, west coast city Esbjerg was a shoo-in for the Social Democrats, but the Liberal (Venstre) party took the mayor’s job in 1993 and have held it since.

But a change in mayor in 2017 when the long serving Johnny Søtrup stepped down has put Esbjerg back into play, according to broadcaster DR’s analysis of close races in the 2021 local elections.

Liberal incumbent Jesper Frost Rasmussen and Social Democrat challenger Jakob Lykke, a local trade union representative, both hope to take the city when votes are counted tonight.

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Kolding

South Jutland town Kolding has made a few headlines during this year’s local election cycle because of some headline mayoral candidates, including former foreign minister and leader of the Socialist People’s Party, Villy Søvndal, and another former minister, Eva Kjer Hansen of the Liberal party.

Incumbent Jørn Pedersen, also of the Liberal party is not running for re-election. Any one of a number of parties could see their candidate succeed Pedersen, according to DR.

Tønder

Down on the border with Germany, Tønder will see either a new party or new mayor take over the post at the head of the municipality after sitting Liberal mayor Henrik Frandsen was effectively “primaried”, to borrow a term from US politics.

Local Liberal party members earlier voted for a different lead candidate, Martin Iversen, to run for mayor in the town in 2021. Frandsen subsequently left the Liberals and formed a local group, Tønderlisten, which he hopes to lead back to the mayor’s seat.

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