Jacob Christensen

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Project 52 – 2014: Week 25

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Sports. And yes, even teddy bears are enthusiastic about the World Cup and polar bears are formidable goalkeepers.

Written by Jacob Christensen

June 25th, 2014 at 8:00 am

Project 52 – 2014: Week 24

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Façade

Personification … say, is that house making faces at me?

Written by Jacob Christensen

June 15th, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Project 52 – 2014: Weeks 22 and 23

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Week 22: “Fuubutsushi (n.) the things — feelings, scents, images — that evoke memories or anticipation of a particular season” – What says early summer like fresh potatoes and strawberries?

Week 23: Almost nothing. A bench which somehow disappeared.

Written by Jacob Christensen

June 10th, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Some Delayed Holiday Snapshots

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I visited Berlin in early March – and I finally got around to post some of my photos. The entire set is here.

Berlin: Pavement

Pavement. Could be anywhere but this is Berlin.

Berlin: Kreuzberg

Mural in Kreuzberg.

Berlin: Flughafen Tempelhof

An old runway at Tempelhof Airport.

Berlin: Flughafen Tempelhof

And here a view of the entire Tempelhof complex. Much, much larger than I had imagined.

Berlin: Neue Nationalgallerie

Ausweitung der Kampfzone. Last exhibition before the Neue Nationalgalerie closed for renovation.

Berlin: Tiergarten

Tiergarten in the early spring.

Berlin: View from Brandenburger Tor at night

View from Brandenburger Tor at night.

Berlin: Berlin: Karl-Marx-Allée - Kino International

Karl-Marx-Allée: Kino International.

Berlin: Karl-Marx-Allée

And more from Karl-Marx-Allée.

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 30th, 2014 at 8:00 am

Løkke = Auken? 2014 = 1992?

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Just one idea which grew out of a comment on Jarl Cordua’s Facebook-wall:

We don’t know how the present leadership crisis in the Liberal Party will end but the recurrent undermining of the credibility of Lars Løkke Rasmussen has a familiar ring to it – in 1992 the Social Democrats lost their chairman after a prolonged internal and external campaign against Svend Auken, ending in an open challenge.

The Auken crisis had two sides: One which had to do with Auken’s personality and one which had to do with the policies of the Social Democrats. In the dominant narrative, the first side has prevailed but we might want to remember the other side.

Auken became party chairman in 1987 following the usual succession order in the party – he was Anker Jørgensen’s chosen candidate. The early part of his term yielded wins and losses – the 1987 agreement over the 1988 state budget was a clear win, the 1988 “submarine” election a clear loss. In 1990, Auken came as close to the Prime Minister’s office as he would ever do – a socialist majority in the electorate failed to result in a parliamentary majority as the newly formed Red Green Alliance missed the 2% threshold.

From that point on, things began to go seriously wrong for Auken. Stories about his lack of reliability in parliamentary negotiations began to make the round coupled with criticism of lack of internal leadership. Finally, the Social Liberals made it clear that they would not support a Social Democratic-led government under Auken. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a bizarre housing scandal caused by the then chairman of the parliamentary group, Ritt Bjerregaard. Without someone to control the daily business of the group, Auken was drifting politically and organisationally and vulnerable to a coup which came from the party organisation.

The thing to note is that Auken in fact was relatively successful in 1992 while his weaknesses as a political leader were also well-known. The question was if they were substantial enough to bring about his downfall. As it turned out, they did.

Now look at Lars Løkke Rasmussen: He also came into office uncontested – not, perhaps, as Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s preferred successor, but rather out of inevitability. During his term in office, he could point to a number of important agreements in the economic policy arena. And his weaknesses as a leader and his propensity to overspend on personal expenses and lack of understanding of the border separating the public and the personal were well-known. In 2011, he only narrowly missed reelection as prime minister – but since then the Liberal Party has appeared to be drifting, perhaps because the party leadership expected it to cruise to victory in the coming general election.

Then the skeletons began to fall out of all cupboards: The prestigious post as chairman of 3GI, a Korean-based NGO, came back to haunt him as stories of overspending began to leak in the run-up to the local elections. And now stories of overspending in his capacity as Liberal chairman have been leaking, adding to the factors which led to Liberal losses in the European Parliament election.

Unlike Auken in 1992, Løkke i 2014 still has a formidable staff at his disposal. Hatchet man Claus Hjort Frederiksen appears to be hard at work securing support for the embattled chairman while the party actually has taken some action to get the chairman’s expenses under control. The strange fact is that the party has failed to relay this to the public – perhaps because too much publicity would be an acknowledgement of the chairman’s weaknesses. Another factor pointing in Løkke’s favour is the lack of a clear challenger – but then again it took a long time before Poul Nyrup Rasmussen appeared as a credible challenger to Svend Auken. Finally, the Danish People’s Party has not yet declared Løkke unfit for office – but the party has begun challenging some of Løkke’s proposed economic policies.

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 27th, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Politics

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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

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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

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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

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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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