So far, political reporting during the silly season this summer has been taken over by Fælleslisten, a party which has its roots in the north-western parts of Region Midtjylland and which was originally formed in protest to the decision by the regional council – and the government – to place a new hospital in Gødstrup near Herning instead of closer to Holstebro. After winning two seats in the regional council at the last local elections, the party now plans to extend its activities to all of Denmark – or more specifically, the parts left empty-handed by the centralisation of all kinds of public services. And now the questions are: A) Will they make it to parliament at the next national elections and B) What role would Fælleslisten have in national politics.
As always, political scientists are pathetic when it comes to predictions but I will take a chance and add my considerations.
First, the party was originally organised on a local issue and it is obviously very hard to move from being a local pressure group to a national party.
On the other hand, issues such as the closing of schools, vocational colleges, public libraries, police stations, council offices and hospitals have affected large parts of the country. Add the withdrawal of public transport outside of the larger towns which is now being implemented and we face a massive problem with large parts of the country being left out and feeling abandoned by … well, by whom? The politicians? Bureaucrats? Technocrats?
Here we may have the crucial weak point in the organisational and political reforms of local government and state authorities: Even if the organisational structures of the 1960s for many reasons had outlived themselves by the 1990s, the 2007 local government reform was essentially the work of bureaucrats and technocrats with the Liberal Party and the then Interior Minister and present Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen as the political front. And even worse: While the reforms promised cheaper and more efficient public services, the economic results have been limited and the promised improvements in the quality of public services hard to discern. The most visible result has been that the counters literally have been moved further away from citizens.
At the same time, the economic development has meant that while the metropolitan region around Copenhagen and the “100-kilometre-town” in Eastern Jutland1 have seen growth and an influx of people, the rest of the country has seen stagnation with the appearance of the by now infamous “rotten banana” as the result. (Things are a bit more complicated as large parts of Zealand also belong to the banana, but we’ll use it as the iconic image for now).
To sum up: What we have is a potential centre-periphery conflict caused by a very uneven economic development as well as national politics becoming increasingly technocratic and centralised. The question is if Fælleslisten (or any other political party) will be able to mobilise voters and turn the latent conflict into an active one.
To be continued…
- The – legally non-existent – “100-kilometre-town”, also known as “The Fat Sausage”, is the stretch along the East Jutland motorway from Randers via Århus, Horsens and Vejle to Fredericia and Kolding. It is also the best – or worst, if you wish – case of suburban sprawl in Denmark [↩]