Incredible but true: They are still negotiating in some of the local councils. Today, Kerteminde much to everybody’s surprise got a new mayor (the term “suicide mission” comes to hand, given the state of Kerteminde) and Nordfyn also suddenly looks shaky.
Or perhaps I should say: Everything is going as usual. In many places, the distribution of posts and spoils went relatively fast and smoothly, but there were the usual hiccups. Hiccup type #1 is when a party decides to enter an agreement with another set of parties than announced before the election, while Hiccup type #2 is when a councillor leaves his or her party in order to become mayor or head of one of the committees or whatever.
The Bondam incident in Copenhagen was a Type #1 Hiccup: Nobody left their parties but that the Social Liberals (RV) should form an electoral group with the Danish People’s Party (DF) was … not expected. The issue here was of course that RV are fierce critics of DF’s immigration and value policies and vice versa.
So, why did they do it? The answer is not simply personal aspirations as all signs are that Klaus Bondam could have had a less exposed and just as economically profitable post had he and RV stayed with the Social Democrats. On the other hand, this would have left the Social Liberals less visible politically during the coming term – for better or for worse: The party could always take a bet on collecting the disgruntled vote in Copenhagen in 2013 and find a new leading candidate.
Trying to reconstruct a negotiation of this kind is not entirely easy, because there was more than the seven mayoral portfolios in play. As said, the negotiation also included a number of board memberships, committee memberships and chairs, etc, etc. We should also remember that local councils are limited in their powers which means that the ideological dimensions which control national politics have less power in controlling local parties.
But what we had in the end in Copenhagen were two technical coalitions: One consisting of the Social Democrats, the Socialists, the Red-Green Alliance and – ca-chinnngg! – the Conservatives and another consisting of the Liberals, the Social Liberals and the Danish People’s Party. The first coalition controlled 41 of the 55 seats in the City Council and took five of the seven portfolios, the second controlled 14 seats and took two portfolios. If we break this down, the distribution was: S 2, SF 2, EL 1, V 1 and RV 1.
(I’m not sure it gets any easier, but you can look at the spreadsheet with the calculations of some of the possible combinations I have made here. Sorry about the layout but I’m not a professional city council negotiator).
Now, if we compare with a situation without alliances, the final result meant that S “lost” one portfolio while RV “won” one. The only combination which would have given S three mayors was an S-SF-EL-RV-KF alliance. As far as we know KF was the first party to defect from its initial alliance (V-DF-KF) but the question is how much S would have had to pay for RV to accept to stay in the five-party alliance.
A V-DF-KF alliance, on the other hand, would have yielded two portfolios – but as DF was the bigger party in terms of votes, one could argue that that party should have had the second of the portfolios available to the alliance. Apparently, this was not acceptable to KF which could then choose between not getting a portfolio in the right-wing alliance or join the left-wing alliance. KF would still not get any portfolios but it is possible that there were other spoils available.
However, with KF in the left alliance RV stood to gain by defecting to the right, while DF couldn’t lose by including RV compared to V-DFm even if V-DF-KF would be DF’s preference compared to V-RV-DF, This is because RV is larger than DF and would then take the second portfolio. Note that V-RV-DF-KF would have had the same benefit for RV, but KF would have been even further away from the portfolio so neither DF or KF would probably have had any motivation to include RV as long as KF was on board. With KF out, the gains for the right were more obvious.
Biut why did KF get away with defecting, while RV took all of the blame? Here we need to consider the ideological variable but even that doesn’t solve all problems. Neither the S-SF-EL-KF or the V-RV-DF coalition are ideologically connected – unless the Copenhagen Conservatives are placed to the left of the Social Liberals. It helps if the distance between S and KF is smaller than the distance between RV and DF – but then the question we need to answer is if RV’s main aim during the coming term should be to minimise DF’s influence rather than to maximise its own influence. (Remember: This is an “either-or” here).
But, as they say on Facebook: It’s complicated. And it definitively ain’t over ’till it’s over.
The story about the agreement in Bondam’s own words.