In ye olde days, being the mayor of Copenhagen was something special. Basically, you had to make your way up through the Byzantine system of committees, departments and whatnot in an elaborate career. Oh, and you had to be a Social Democrat: Since the introduction of elected mayors and one man-one vote, the SocDems always dominated Copenhagen politics with one or two frustrated Conservatives standing by.
But times change and the Social Democratic share of the vote in the capital has been on a downward slide since the 1970s as has the local party organisation. So when Jens Kramer Mikkelsen in 2004 declared that he would be standing down, there was no obvious old-skool successor. The local Social Democrats needed a rabbit and they needed one fast and the result was the surprising move of former minister, former European commissioner and former chairman of the Social Democratic parliamentary group Ritt Bjerregaard from national to local politics.
The trick paid off: The SocDems enjoyed a massive win in the 2005 elections, ending Søren Pind’s career in Copenhagen politics, and Ritt Bjerregaard cruised into office. And that was the end of the cruise. I’m not sure that Bjerregaard has performed any worse than most other politicians would have, but faced with the prospect of a nasty loss in this autumn’s election, she decided to throw in the towel at the age of 67.
And the local SocDems faced the same problems. Yes, there are local politicians available like whatshisname, the young one and the likely outsider. How about repeating the success, then?
Social Democratic high-flying MP Christine Antorini wasn’t keen on the idea, but now we are told that the loser of the 2005 campaign for the chairmanship of the Social Democratic party, Frank Jensen has been dragged out of the stable.
We shall see, but it is interesting that a) the traditional methods for selecting a mayor of Copenhagen can no longer be applied and b) that becoming mayor of Copenhagen looks like an office for politicians who are seen as spent forces in national politics. In a way, it looks like Copenhagen is a worse alternative to being mayor of any other local authority in Denmark.