The Final Agreements
Most agreements on the future distribution of offices were made during the evening of November 15 or the following day. Hence the last week has been relatively undramatic in most of the communes and regions.
There are some notable exceptions, however. The political unrest continued in the City of Copenhagen with a spectacular defection from the Liberal Party that led to national reactions. The distribution of offices in the Metropolitan Region hasn’t been settled yet, two mayors in Ringsted and Greve unexpectedly lost office and there has been demonstrations in protest against the ney mayors in Ikast-Brande, Hjørring and Greve.
As of Saturday the distribution of offices in the communes are: SD 45, Liberals 36, Conservatives 11, Social Liberals 1, Socialists 1 and local parties 4 (secondary offices in Copenhagen, Århus, Ålborg and Odense are not included). This makes the Social Democrats the largest party both in terms of share of the vote and mayoral posts.
The distribution of offices in the City of Copenhagen took some unexpected turns in the days following the election. On election night Ritt Bjerregaard secured a deal with the Social Liberal Party that gave her the post of First Mayor and the two parties four of seven mayoral posts.
In a surprising second round of negotiations the Socialist Peoples’ Party and Unity List were included in the deal and finally the Liberal Wallait Khan defected from his group to the SPP group which meant that the centre-left could take control of six of seven mayoral posts – leaving only one low-profile post to the Liberal Party – and a number of other offices and spoils.
Khan’s defection led to some fall-out on the local and national level.
One reason was that this was the second time that Khan changed his affiliation following an election. Some years ago, he defected from the Socialist Peoples’ Party to the Liberal Party, but now chose to defect in the opposite direction.
Khan was also criticised for not attending plenary and committee meetings during the last term and it was revealed that he had been in Pakistan during much of the autumn in an attempt to win office in Pakistani local government. Khan was rewarded with the post of 2nd deputy chairman of the Copenhagen Local Council but may loose his mandate if the electoral committee following a formal complaint against Khan (filed by the Liberal Party!) decides that he is not eligible at local elections due to his long sejours in his home country.
Finally news media have started focusing on questionable aspects of Khan’s activities in the Pakistani immigrant community. Whether or not the reported stories – which include allegations of fraud and violence and which are highly unusual in a Danish context – are true or part of an orchestrated campaign against Khan remains to be seen.
The Metopolitan Region
The parties in the new Metropolitan Regional Council have not been able to reach an agreement on the distribution of offices. The Social Liberal Kirsten Lee (Frederiksborg county) objected to the election of former county mayor Vibeke Storm Rasmussen (SD, Copenhagen county) or Lars Engberg (SD, City of Copenhagen) as chairman of the regional council but wasn’t able to gather an own majority. Lee’s argument was that both Storm Rasmussen and Engberg have led failed hospital systems.
After a week the Social Democrats, the Socialist Peoples’ Party and the Danish Peoples’ Party made an agreement that will make Storm Rasmussen chairman and Henrik Thorup (DPP) deputy chariman of the regional council. The three parties do not have a majority, however, as neither the Social Liberal Party nor the Unity List wanted to join the agreement for different reasons. The UL will probably vote for Storm Rasmussen but against Thorup.
It may be noted that Kirsten Lee is the wife of former SLP leader and foreign minister Niels Helveg Petersen while Henrik Thorup is the husband of DPP leader Pia Kjærsgaard.
Other Defections and Protests
Another spectacular defection took place in Greve – a suburb of Copenhagen – where controversial Liberal mayor René Milo seemed to have achieved reelection but was defeated by the Conservative Hans Barlach after Birgitte Klarskov Jerkel defected from the Liberal to the Conservative Party.
Jerkel’s motivation for her defection was that René Milo would not assign her to any political posts despite her gaining the second largest number of personal votes in the local election. According to Jerkel, Milo’s reaction was that she “had only received her votes because she was a woman and looked good”.
Jerkel’s defection was met with angry reactions by the local branch of the Liberal party culminating in the publication of an anonymous hate-site on the internet (which the local Liberal Party did not detach itself from) and a nightly demonstration which was originally scheduled to end at Jerkel’s private home.
The demonstration was in the end re-routed to Greve Town Hall after a national outcry.
What is worth noticing is that this demonstration was not unique: In both the new Ikast-Brande and Hjørring communes the loosing side organised demonstrations in protest against the future mayors. This kind of demonstrations seems to be a new phenomenon in Danish local politics.