KV17 – STORY # 1 – POSTERS IN LAMPPOSTS
IN DANISH, KV17 IS SHORT FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS 2017, AND ON 21 NOVEMBER 2017, DANISH VOTERS WILL DECIDE THE POLITICAL COMPOSITION OF 98 MUNICIPAL COUNCILS AND 5 REGIONAL COUNCILS. THIS TAKES PLACE EVERY FOUR YEARS, AND ALWAYS ON THE THIRD TUESDAY IN NOVEMBER. THIS IS CAST IN STONE AND DIFFERS FROM ELECTIONS FOR PARLIAMENT, WHICH CAN BE CALLED BY THE PRIME MINISTER WITHIN THE PERIOD OF MAXIMUM FOUR YEARS. DURING THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN, I WILL POST A SERIES OF STORIES ABOUT SMALL AND LARGE ISSUES THAT DEFINE THE SPECIAL ‘DEMOCRATIC CULTURE’ OF MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN DENMARK.
STORY # 1
ELECTION POSTERS BLOWING IN THE WIND
Photo taken close to Parliament, a few minutes before parties are allowed to put up their posters.
Denmark is in many ways, like other democratic societies, a rule-based society. Some Danes would like to see fewer rules and regulations; others are probably satisfied with the balance the lawmakers have found. But I feel I am on very safe ground, when I state that a large majority of Danes are happy that we have rules for how election campaigns are played out. One important rule is that it is only allowed for the political parties to place their election posters in certain places, and only after a certain time and date. This year the day was Sunday 28 October at 12 am. Seconds after this deadline, I saw young people climbing the lightposts of the city of Copenhagen, competing to get the best possible exposure to the thousands of people streaming through the city on bicycles and in cars every day. Few would argue that this makes our city more beautiful, so we are happy that it will only be part of our environment for around one month. There is actually a rule about when the posters have to be removed after election day.
Each candidate is personally responsible for placing the posters, but most of the hard work is done by the campaign staff, mostly made up of volunteers, in particular volunteers from the youth wing of the party the candidate belongs to. Only the top candidates of the parties will have what you could call a ‘professional’ campaign staff. For most candidates, campaigning in a municipal election is hard work – placing posters, handing out postcards in shopping centres and in the street, participating in debates with other candidates without having an adviser telling you what to say. Of course, you get some support from your party, but not support on a massive scale, and not at all at the level known from the parliamentary elections. Personally I think this is a good thing. There is already too much money involved in elections all over the world. If ordinary people shall be able to participate, we need to keep our election campaigns at a modest level.
Do posters work? Can they win an election for a candidate? Or is the election poster an example of an election feauture of the past? Some might actually be surprised to learn (I was) that surveys indicate that the old style poster does work! Voters become familiar with at least some of the candidates running, and if you are inclined to vote for a person rather than the party, then it is nice to get a sense of what the people you read or hear about look like. It should also be mentioned that unlike what is the case in many countries, Danish candidates and parties cannot advertise on radio and television. Advertising is allowed in newspapers, and then on posters in the street. Of course today the social media play an important role. Still, the poster seems to be here to stay.
You could then ask: Are posters in general high quality from an artistic or graphic point of view? Well, that will always be a matter of personal taste, so this is what I will offer. I do not think so! Denmark has a proud tradition going back for more than 100 years of parties creating clear and hard hitting messages about what they believe the voters want to hear, and also for presenting the messages in creative ways. Take a look at the four examples above. I have randomly chosen four posters from the Social Democrats, but in my view they are neither better nor worse than those from other parties. Two posters just present the face of the candidate. One presents the face and his message (the Lord Mayor of the city of Copenhagen). The poster on the left is without a face, but with a graphic message. This is the one I like! I have no idea what the candidate looks like, but I am now interested in finding out more about him, because I like his message.
Posters were placed when stormy weather hit Denmark, and the young man on the photo at the top had difficulty holding his posters from the Danish People’s Party. Time will show how stormy the election campaign will be!