Party profile: Socialdemokraterne

Looking to extend his party’s reign, Frank Jensen focuses on traffic, business and the city’s weakest residents

Since the post was established in 1938, Copenhagen’s mayor has always been from the Socialdemokraterne (S) party. Frank Jensen is the ninth consecutive S mayor and polls suggest that the party is likely to maintain its grip on the city’s highest political office following the November 19 election.

But while it has always been the City Council’s largest party, Socialdemokraterne has not had an absolute majority since 1970. Instead, the centre-left party has had to broker deals with parties to its right and left.

This pragmatic style is the key to his party’s long-running success, Jensen argues.

“Parties around us don’t have the responsibility for finding the solutions to make Copenhagen work and make sure that families can lead a good life,” Jensen said. “We have lived up to this responsibility.”

SEE ALSO: Party profile: Venstre

Better traffic flow
S has joined the right wing to push through policies opposed by the left. For example, Socialdemokraterne joined the right wing in 2011 to create 1,726 new parking spaces in the city. The party also supports the construction of a harbour tunnel that can take heavy traffic from the north of the city to the motorways to the south.

And while the two left-wing parties Socialistisk Folkeparti and Enhedslisten are keen to reduce the number of cars in the city, Jensen is less interested in making life difficult for motorists.

“We are all for investing in cycling, the Metro and public transport, but we also know that cars are here to stay. Car ownership is also on the rise so we need to make sure that traffic is flowing, both on cycle paths and on the roads,” Jensen said, pointing out that better planning of roadworks, for example, could improve flow without reducing car numbers.

SEE ALSO: Party profile: Radikale

True to socialist roots
Traffic policy is one of the only areas that Socialdemokraterne departs from its left-wing partners, however, and Jensen’s agenda for the next four years draws upon the party’s socialist roots and aims to improve the living conditions of the city’s most vulnerable.

“There needs to be fewer poor people and fewer people at the fringes of society,” Jensen said. “It means we need to focus on drug addicts and those who have difficulty joining the labour market as well as young people who aren’t profiting from the work and education opportunities.”

High on the agenda is building more affordable housing for students and low-income earners. 

One of Jensen’s biggest achievements of the past four years was securing a guaranteed daycare spot for all children older than six months within four kilometres of their home.

International residents, and the businesses that depend on their skills, have also benefited from Jensen’s four years in office. This year, the city opened the International House to help international residents network, find work and navigate bureaucracy.

And last September, the City Council set aside 150 million kroner to help fund a new European School that will create needed English-language school places for the children of international workers.

More service-minded
But Jensen recognises that the city can’t afford to pay for its social policies without a thriving economy, and here he admits the city could do more to catch up with its competitors, Stockholm and Hamburg.

“We have a large budget and can invest in a framework for private investment,” Jensen said. “The council could also be more service-minded when dealing with the private sector and help create opportunities for businesses wanting to expand.”

Jensen says the city is on the right path, however, and Copenhagen is steadily becoming a global hub for green technology that is being exported around the world.

“We have reduced our carbon emissions by 40 percent since 2009, extended district heating to 97 city-owned buildings and have reduced energy use by 70 percent in some buildings. These are solutions other cities around the world are demanding, and its these solutions we can develop and sell,” Jensen said.

Ultimately, however, Jensen wants to measure Copenhagen’s success by the living standards of its most vulnerable residents.

“The council is a community, and the community is only strong when the weakest get a helping hand to take part,” Jensen said.

Factfile | Frank Jensen
Party: Socialdemokraterne
Age: 52
Years on the City Council: 4

• Reduce poverty
• Increase employment
• Export green solutions
• Improve quality of schools
• Ban prostitution