Jacob Christensen

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The 2014 European Parliament Elections in Denmark

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First, 2014 versus (2009)

People’s Movement – 8,1 (7,2)
Socialist People’s Party – 10,9 (15,9)
Social Democrats – 19,1 (21,5)
Social Liberals – 6,5 (4,3)
Liberals – 16,7 (20,2)
Liberal Alliance – 2,9 (0,6)
Conservative People’s Party – 9,2 (12,7)
Danish People’s Party – 26,6 (15,3)

Turn-out – 56,3 (59,5)

Turn-out was down but still above the 50%-level which had been the norm until 2009. The question is how big a role the referendum on the European Patent Court played compared to the Danish People’s Party’s massive campaign to mobilise its voters.

Next, the European level of the Danish party system looks increasingly as a thing of the past. There are variations between the result and national opinion polls but the result gives clear clues to how the result of a national election would look right now. The People’s Movement is more or less a Red-Green Alliance Plus but we have a collection of very different anti-EU parties (PM, LA, DPP) to collect the anti-EU vote.

Obviously, the Danish People’s Party were the big winners following a massive campaign for lead candidate Morten Messerschmidt (can anyone name any of the other DPP candidates?). What is interesting is that the party is pushing the 20% limit in national opinon polls and it is no longer outlandish to imagine the party as the largest bourgeois party (and the largest party overall) in the next Folketing.

At the same time, the result is a massive disappointment to the Liberals. The scandal concerning party chairman Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s economy goes some way to explain the defeat. On the other hand, the Liberals have underperformed in previous European elections. Still, bad national polls should give the party reason to rethink its rather passive strategy.

The Social Democrats can be disappointed and celebrate the position as the second-largest party at the same time. It is not the party’s worst performance (1994 and 1999 were even worse) but it should be a(nother) wake-up call to a party which is in a crisis of historical proportions.

The Socialist People’s Party (Margrethe Auken always was a formidable campaigner) and the Conservatives (who may have benefited from the Liberals’ crisis) will draw sighs of relief. Losses, yes, but a far way from any electoral wipe-out.

The People’s Movement, the Social Liberals and Liberal Alliance performed more or less as expected and it is not surprising that the two Liberal parties underperform compared to national polls.

Still: The major story is the rise and rise of the Danish People’s Party.

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 26th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Politics

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Project 52 – 2014: Weeks 19, 20 and 21

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How did we get from “Recession song” to “Sage” to tea? Well, during week 19 we did:

Tea

Week 20: Hand. Mine. Ready to add those red lines.

Hand

Week 21: Life’s milestones. This election campaign for the European Parliament elections has been a bit special for me as I happened to know one of the candidates: Karen Melchior who ran for the Danish Social Liberals. Karen’s day job is as a civil servant in the Danish Foreign Ministry so the question is if this Sunday will be one of life’s milestones for her (The Social Liberals can only hope for one seat in the EP and Karen is not the lead candidate so it is a slim chance but still). This poster is one of four hanging almost next to my apartment – and no: I wasn’t involved.

Campaigning

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 26th, 2014 at 8:00 am

No Hasty Decisions in the Polling Station

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No hasty decisions when you enter the polling station!

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 25th, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Spare time

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The Day Before the Election

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Some disjointed notes:

1. The European parties’ lead candidates (Messrs Schultz, Juncker et al) played no role in the Danish campaign. I am still trying to imagine the Dynamic Trio consisting of Bendt Bendtsen, Lars Barfoed and Jean-Claude Juncker, btw.

2. Much of the campaign was hijacked by issues which have very little to do with the powers of the European Parliament. That welfare and law and order are high on the national agenda is another matter, but the question remains if the parties were unable or unwilling to promote issues relevant to the Parliament.

3. My impression is that the “The European Patent Court is a very technical and complicated issue” angle won the campaign. So contrary to my earlier predictions, I will now guess that the referendum will not boost turn-out so we will be back to the 45-50% level. Low turn-out will be to the benefit of the yes-campaign.

4. Anti-EU parties of different orientations (People’s Movement, Danish People’s Party and Liberal Alliance) will win some 35% of the vote.

5. The fate of the Liberals is the remaining fascinating question: Did the scandal surrounding Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s personal economy thwart the Liberals’ chances of becoming the largest party and push it into third place instead? It looks so now. These elections could be the first European Parliament elections to have clear national repercussions (i.e. a change of party leader) and make history – even if it happens inadverdently.

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 24th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Politics

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The Suit, the Cigarettes and the Airplane Ticket

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As the climax to an otherwise uninspiring campaign to the European Parliament elections (and the European Patent Court referendum) we had the return of an old and familiar subject which is completely unrelated to either: The inability of the chairman of the Liberal Party and former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen to a) find a reasonable level of expenditure related to his public duties and b) separate his public functions from his personal economy.

All in all, this doesn’t tell us anything new about Løkke: These stories have been with us since his days as leader of the Liberal Youth organisation and – to a wider public – county mayor of Frederiksborg County.

But first of all, we can say that political scandals in Denmark continue to be about money rather than sex. It is just that this time bespoke suits, boxer shorts and bills for the cleaning of hotel rooms have entered the equation.

Second, the stories may not tell us much about Løkke’s abilities to perform as a political leader: His moodyness and often exasperating lack of a clear strategy seem more relevant here.

Still, the symbolic elements are important. The Liberals want to lead the campaign for the (expected) 2015 election on an austerity platform which leaves absolutely no room for the improvement of working conditions for public employees and the prospect of extremely tight budgets at all levels in the public sector. This fits badly with a “no limits” approach to expenses when it comes to the highest echelons of the political class itself – and it will not help politicians who face declining levels of trust – even if it fits nicely with the bossism endemic to modern management culture in general and New Public Management in particular.

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 17th, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Politics

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Project 52 – 2014: Weeks 17 and 18

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First, “Cheerful”. Bianca and Bruno (and Baby Bear) greet us waving their soft paws:

Then, “Delectable”. On a long Friday, a muffin and a cup of coffee accompanied by Techsistens will have to do.

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 5th, 2014 at 8:00 am

Should We Have Fewer Danish MPs?

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In general, people loathe politicians and like their representatives, so when a former front-bench politician calls for a substantial reduction in the number of MPs in the Danish Folketing, then this is bound to have some resonance in the media (well, it has: Berlingske’s Bent Winther is happy to play the “irrelevant politicians” song) and among voters.

As it is, Berlingske’s coverage shows that politicians are happy to come up with arguments for a reduction in the number of parliamentarians – but it is also very easy to see that they have highly differing motives for doing so. Some argue that the size of the Folketing should be reduced because many tasks have been moved from the national level to local governments, others that the size of the Folketing should be reduced so that the Folketing won’t mess with local governments.

The relationship between national and local government is an important one, but the fact that Denmark went through a major administrative reform just a few years ago seems to have eluded all participants in the debate. In any event, the reform of the Danish regional and local government implemented in 2007 almost halved the number of elected politicians from 374 in 2001 to 201 in 2013 at the regional level and from 4647 in 2001 to 2444 in 2013 at the local level. We could argue that this has reduced democratic representation at the local and regional level while local and regional administrations have been professionalised. Perhaps local politicians make less noise while civil servants have greater influence?

The same problem applies to the argument that we need fewer parliamentarians because of the increasing Europeanisation and globalisation of governance. We might argue that the EU and globalisation have made national regulations less relevant but we might also argue that if there is a trend towards judicialisation and marketisation of relations then this makes political oversight as necessary as ever. So perhaps the problem is less the number of politicians than what they spend their energies on?

Then there are a number of issues which will have to be addressed if the Folketing wants to reduce the number of MPs.

First of all, we should note that section 28 of the 1953 Constitution only sets a maximum limit of 179 MPs including 2 MPs from the Faeroe Islands and 2 from Greenland. This means that the Folketing is free to set a lower number of MPs in the legilsation guiding national elections. It gets slightly more complicated, however, when we take section 29.2 and, especially, 29.3 into account as they state that not only the representation of political views but also regional population numbers, number of voters and population density must be taken into account in the design of the electoral system. As it is, peripheral parts of Denmark are overrepresented if we look at where MPs are elected (even if MPs by far aren’t representative of the Danish population in terms of residence and education). What would happen if a reduction in the number of MPs would lead to Bornholm losing one or both of its present MPs?

A reduction in the number of MPs would affect the different parties in different ways. Unlike a cornucopia, the talent pools of political parties aren’t exactly infinite and larger parties like the Liberals and Social Democrats might lose a number of less important MPs who lack – or feel that they lack – relevant tasks but MPs from smaller parties like the Conservative People’s Party or Liberal Alliance have to cover a broad range of policy areas in their daily work.1

This could put parliamentary scrutiny of legislation under even greater stress than it already is and turn the Folketing into even more of a rubber stamp on government decisions. But reducing the size of parliament might be a way of securing the power of the larger parties over smaller ones. Incidentally, fractionalisation in the Danish parliament has been on the rise since the 2001 election with the Liberals and Social Democrats running neck and neck (possibly joined by the Danish People’s Party in the coming election) followed by a number of medium-sized parties and some smaller ones.

A smaller number of MPs would also mean a smaller interface between the Folketing and society at large. Here, we should remember that large parts of MP’s schedules are devoted to contacts with interest organisations, lobbyists, the civil society and individual voters. With fewer MPs, parliament will be less approachable to voters – even if MPs could counter this by hiring greater numbers of assistants and advisors. If the exclusion of ordinary people from national politics is a real problem, then reducing the number of elected politicians may in fact increase the feeling of alienation among voters in the longer run.

I suspect that the work of the Folketing and individual MPs could do well with a thorough investigation and reflections among the parties but all things considered, then the problems have less to do with the number of MPs than the way the respective leaderships of the parties represented in the Folketing make use of their MPs.

And the size of the Folketing? Actually, there is a rule of thumb saying that the size of a national parliament should be the cubic root of the size of the population. If we apply that to mainland Denmark, we need to calculate the cubic root of 5,627,235.

In case you wonder, the number is 177.9.

  1. Yes, Anders Samuelsen supports the idea of cutting the number of MPs but this fits nicely with LA’s ideal of a market-based society with a minimal role for politics. []

Written by Jacob Christensen

April 28th, 2014 at 7:30 am

Project 52 – 2014: Week 13 and 16

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Due to a very heavy workload I missed posting for a week. But here is week 13 “Numbers” leading you the way to the elusive Track 26 of Copenhagen Central Station:

Week 16 was “Renewal”. The photo shows roadworks in Nørregade in Odense – the real point, however, is the renewal of the Thomas B. Thriges Gade-area which will begin during the summer when Thomas B. Thriges Gade is closed for traffic in order to make way for a new quarter of housing, officies and shops. The roadworks on the photo have to be finished to allow for the increased road traffic in the remaining streets.

Written by Jacob Christensen

April 22nd, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Project 52 – Weeks 10, 11 and 12 (in which you actually get to see me)

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Week 10 saw Karen Mardahl and myself subverting a theme based on a quote from Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake. Instead of the expected gimlets, we went for similar cups of coffee in a trendy coffee shop (no, not one of those coffee shops) in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district.

First, my photo of Karen:

(Her drink was the same as mine)

And then – tadaa – Karen’s photo of me:

The same drink

Week 11 took its cue from an Emily Dickinson poem:

Vindegade in the afternoon

Finally, week 12 – a week much to busy to seek photo opportunities – left me looking at the pavements searching for cracks. They weren’t that hard to find:

Pavement

Written by Jacob Christensen

March 23rd, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Project 52 – 2014: Week 8 and 9

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Broken, broken, broken

Broken: Occasionally, it feels like breaking things is one of my core (in)competencies. Still, the first mug broke due to a weakness in the cast. I managed to drop the second, but decided to keep the rubber covers as spares for my remaining four mugs. And then there was the handle on the butter tray… Sigh…

Sunday. After the party

A reflection on “On living”. Taken on a Sunday afternoon.

Written by Jacob Christensen

March 3rd, 2014 at 7:30 pm

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