Stories from Copehagen, where Alternativet is now the 3rd largest party

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A week and a half have passed since the municipal and regional elections in Denmark. The buzz in the Danish media is dying down, the number of Facebook posts from prospective candidates has lessened and the streets of Denmark are again free of election imagery.

But in City Halls across the county, the elected Majors and Citizen's Representatives are busy negotiating and shaping the landscape of local politics for the next four years.

This is first election of its kind for Alternativet since they rose to official politics with 4,8% of the votes in the 2015 election for the national parliament.

From the 1st of January Alternativet will be taking up a total number of 20 seats in 15 City Halls across Denmark. A historic victory!

In Copenhagen Municipality they won the title of 3rd largest party with a total number of 31,553 votes (10,5%) and 6 seats. This translated into 5 Citizen's Representatives and one Mayoral position for front candidate Niko Grünfeld, who will become Copenhagen’s new Mayor of Culture and Leisure.

BIG congratulations to Alternativet for the amazing results! 

In the last days of the campaign our intern project manager, Maria Dorthea Skov, payed a visit to her home country, to catch up our with friends in Alternativet and take part in the election spirit. 

Below she shares some thoughts, feelings and memories from her visit to Copenhagen.

 Rolf Bjerre times two with the Danish parliament building Christiansborg as a backdrop

Rolf Bjerre times two with the Danish parliament building Christiansborg as a backdrop

A report on Alternativet's municipal election campaign in Copenhagen

In Denmark an election is always a special time. The inevitable sea of election posters used to bother me but this time around returning to my home city plastered in them gave me a sense of excitement - the same I would get from some beautifully arranged Christmas decorations. And sure, just like I don’t find all Christmas decorations equally attractive, the sight of some posters didn’t excite me as much as that of others, but that’s not the point. The point is what they represent. 

We celebrate Christmas enthusiastically and colourfully - and we should do the same with democracy. A democracy that in some ways is flawed, but that we cherish deeply and continuously work together to improve it, to make more engaging and dynamic.  

Some of the individuals working for this cause in are the 17 local candidates for Alternativet in Copehagen. A few I got to meet, or meet again, for a chat about their campaign. Others I only tracked on Facebook. All of them impressed and inspired me with their tireless will to make Copenhagen the best city to live in for everyone.

Whether it was through digital political laboratories, deploying art, or by listening to the needs of unemployed and sick citizens, they were all out there providing ways for the people of Copenhagen to engage in local politics.

In front of one polling spot I met candidate Maja Krog. She is also a Kaospilot, mum and The Alternative Copenhagen spokesperson for family and children. To find out what is important for the city's families she put up digital political laboratories from her kitchen, inviting people to participate through her Facebook livestream. Watch her tell more about how this shaped her election campaign in the video below:

As political activists, some days are exciting and rewarding, other days there’s a strong headwind on the bike path (as we say in Denmark).

In the last days leading up to election day, Alternativet was getting a lot of attention in the press. It's difficult to know how to report this because, for our international audience, the stories are out of context and perspectives are skewed. How do we, as The Alternative UK, carry them? Are accusations and counter-accusations between members the real news? Particularly when the factual news, about what we have been doing to our planet for decades, has been systematically hushed up for years? 

Within the party you could feel some frustration. A flicker of despair in the ever-present hopefulness. These stories and the (to some extent) unnecessary attention they were receiving was stealing focus from what it should be all about - the politics and agenda of change of the party and its more than 350 local candidates across the country. Would it affect people's view of Alternativet and their willingness to support them?

Before the voting day, Uffe Elbæk took to Facebook to express his thoughts and feelings. We’re a imperfect party, he said. And continued:

I hope you can forgive me and others who have failed. Because I am so proud to be at the forefront of the political project we have created together. A project where political quality has never been higher than it is now because you have made courageous, visionary and outstanding political initiatives locally and regionally.

However, it does not change that we will continue to be an imperfect party. We will make mistakes. And we do - we make big mistakes, small mistakes, serious mistakes and stupid mistakes. When there are big mistakes, it must have consequences. Unequivocal. And then we will learn from all the mistakes we make, no matter how small they may be, so that we together can create a wiser, greener and more empathetic society.

A healthy way to respond, in my opinion. And the right attitude for entering into local, political influence. Another exciting learning curve for Alternativet. 

Perhaps what is really instructive for us, in the UK, is that the stories in the press didn’t seem to shift the opinions of the voters. Because they had so much evidence on hand about the real quality of the party, the members and their dream, they could see the 'scandals' in perspective. From a distance that would be more difficult to do. On the day 93,426 of them,  all over Denmark, voted 'Å' for a wiser, greener and more empathetic society.

Since the results of the election were finalized and it became clear who would represent Alternativet at the Copehangen City hall and how, there has been some critique that Alternativet chose the position of "Mayor for Culture & Leisure".

In Copenhagen Municipality there is one Lord Mayor and another 6 Mayors, each head of an administration - Children & Youth, Transport & Environment, Social Care, Health Care, Employment & Integration and Culture & Leisure. Alternativet was the fourth party in the row to make a pick. 

To make a long and multisided story short, many members and voters are disappointed - they feel the choice shows a lack of willingness to take real responsibility. They regard Culture & Leisure as the easy and simple choice and criticize the party for turning down the opportunity to have real influence with responsibility for an area, such as Employment & Integration, where an agenda like Alternativet’s is very much needed.

I don’t wish to participate in the debate about whether or not Alternativet made the right choice in this case. But as I’m currently at the end of my degree in Leisure Management I will share a few thoughts on why I believe Culture & Leisure is an area from which change and a greater sense of wellbeing can rise. 

Culture goes far beyond museums and theatres. Essentially it is about our relationship with one another. How we live more harmoniously and experience more understanding, empathy and compassion amongst us.

And it’s in our leisure time that we meet and get to know our community. It’s where we, despite our apparent differences, see that we do wish for many of the same things. It’s where we start to share hopes, dreams and ideas, join forces and create the kind of change we wish to see. 

An important area for the future as well (not too far away) when we are likely to have shorter working weeks and more leisure time. Will increases in free time make us feel more empowered? Perhaps a future Mayor of Culture & Leisure could work with the opportunities and challenges that may arise and provide meaningful leisure spaces for all citizens. Will Alternativet open the way for new kind of leisure?

I’m personally very excited about what can and will emerge from having an Alternativet Culture & Leisure Mayor. Mayor Niko, feel free to email me for ideas.