The Dane who wants to be mayor of a German city – and how he plans to modernize it

46-year-old Dane Claus Ruhe Madsen has won the first round of the election to become lord mayor of the city of Rostock in northern Germany.

The Dane who wants to be mayor of a German city – and how he plans to modernize it
Dane Claus Ruhe Madsen won almost 35 percent of votes in the first round of the election for lord mayor in Rostock. Photo: Bernd Wüstneck / Picture Alliance / Ritzau Scanpix

Local elections held on Sunday alongside municipal elections in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern show that Madsen is in with a strong chance of becoming mayor of the city.

With no candidate having received more than half of votes, a second round of voting to decide the winning candidate will be held on June 16th.

Madsen, who is running on a platform of environmentalism and modernization in the city, said he was delighted with the result of the first vote and hopeful about his chances of being elected.

“This is really great. I had no idea how this was going to go. It’s great that so many Rostockers think this is a good idea,” Madsen, who is running as an independent, said to Ritzau.

The Dane received 34.6 percent of votes in Sunday’s first round, with his nearest rival Steffen Bockhahn of Die Linke (the Left Party) on 18.9 percent.

Should the Dane win on June 16th, he will be the first person from north of the border to be elected as Rostock’s mayor.

“It’s really interesting that this will be the first time ever that a foreigner has won the mayoral election in a larger German city. I’m very surprised by this,” he said.

The Dane said he planned to continue campaigning prior to the second vote by going out to meet voters.

“I am going to go out on my bicycle and speak to as many people as possible and listen to the issues that are important to them. It is very important to me to be on the ground and out amongst the public. More so than (being at) political debates,” he said.

Madsen has turned down a number of parties who wished to recruit him as a candidate.

“I find it difficult to fit into a party box,” he told Ritzau.

His political platform is based on modernizing Rostock, a harbour city on the Baltic Sea coast which, according to Madsen, is “stuck in the past”.

He wants to make the city more attractive for companies in other countries around the Baltic Sea, including Denmark and Sweden.

That will be achieved through renovation of the harbour, improving public transport and bicycle lanes, and making the city a climate frontrunner through a series of environmentalist initiatives, according to the Danish candidate’s platform.

Madsen also wants to build a new theatre in Rostock.

His ideas appear to have gained traction in the German city, with the Dane now a clear favourite to come out on top in the second voting round in the mayoral election next month.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English.