With Vilhelmsen victory, long SF circus draws to close

Endless coverage of election culminates with today’s selection of a new party boss

It has been inescapable. Media coverage of the election has been simply massive. Print journalists have been tripping over themselves searching for that unique quote or exclusive photo while talking heads hotly debated the meaning of each utterance from the candidates during on air debates. It has been exhausting …

The excitement in the Danish press is not over the pending US presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – although, to be fair, that election is getting a fair amount of coverage too – no, the hot ticket in Denmark was today's election of Annette Vilhelmsen as the new party leader of Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF). 

In the early days following the resignation of SF’s outgoing party chair Villy Søvndal, it appeared that youthful health minister Astrid Krag would be the only SFer to bid for the top spot. The action heated up after Vilhelmsen, an SF MP and the party’s business spokesperson, threw her hat into the ring. Journalists began to cover every detail of the drama … even when there wasn’t any.

“The general public is probably not as interested [as political journalists are],” said Jyllands-Posten journalist Kåre Sørensen. “In Denmark, the parliamentary election coverage only lasts about three weeks, and usually for the public that is too much. There is a feeling of ‘just stop it’.”

Vilhelmsen ultimately claimed victory thanks to a wave of support amongst SF’s rank and file. While Krag had the party’s ministers on her side including Søvndal, Thor Möger Pedersen, the tax minister; and Ida Auken, the environment minister.

Conventional wisdom says that a Vilhelmsen-led SF will take a hard turn to the left in the direction of the party’s roots. Many SFers have been disgruntled by the party’s move to the centre during Søvndal’s reign. Although he brought the party to prominence and put it in government for the first time ever, many members felt SF had lost its way and jumped ship to the more left-oriented Enhedslisten.

Krag meanwhile was viewed as Søvndal’s heir apparent, something that may have weighed against her when the votes were finally cast this weekend.

“[The chairmanship] is not just a question of ideas, but a question of people,” said Sørensen. “There are two people competing for a powerful position, and political journalists love that sort of thing: the vetting of candidates, who said what and so on.”

The journalist’s enthusiasm not withstanding, at least one Jyllands-Posten reader has had enough of the seemingly endless coverage.

“Can JP and other media soon write about something other than SF?" the reader wrote. "It is completely uninteresting to me and no doubt many others who will be elected to lead the party. Aren’t there other, more interesting topics to write about?”

Now that Vilhelmsen has claimed victory by a vote of 4,793 to 2,472, we can all hope so.