A letter to the next generation of international local and regional candidates.
Text: Narcis George Matache
Hello there, brave international. I can see that an idea is beautifully taking roots inside your head. The idea is to take a step forward in your community and become a candidate for Denmark's 2025 local and regional elections. You are probably wondering – "will I still make history as an international in Danish local and regional politics?" Yes, you will. There are 97 municipalities (Not 98 because Samsø had a Dutch mayor) and four regions (Not five because Nordjylland had a Romanian councilman), which never had a person without Danish citizenship elected.
We represent 10% of the population, and after the 2021 local and regional elections, we have no local and regional councilmen representing our interests. In 2013, we had a Dutchman elected in the Local Council of Samsø. In 2017, we had four international candidates, with one becoming the first deputy. In 2020, the first deputy became the first international elected in a Regional Council. In 2021, we had the largest field of candidates ever (more than 30), with more than half from the Romanian minority.
"Slowly, we are reaching the critical step, in which all internationals know they can vote."
Unfortunately, the path towards representation is long and full of obstacles. However, as a veteran of local and regional elections (campaign leader in 2013; candidate in 2017 and 2021), I can confirm that we made progress. If in 2013, the presence of internationals at the voting booths surprised many people, in 2021, we had instruction signs in English (in many municipalities, not all). If in 2013, only one Danish candidate spoke towards internationals, in 2021, we had many Danish candidates attempting to open dialogue with internationals. If in 2013, on the municipalities' websites, it wasn't mentioned that we could vote, in 2021, all the municipalities wrote about it, with some even choosing to do it multilingual. Slowly, we are reaching the critical step, in which all internationals know that they can vote, and all the Danes know that we can vote—the expected evolution towards common knowledge.
While the voting presence of internationals keeps getting better, seven out of ten internationals never voted in Denmark. We don't know the voting presence in 2021 (for internationals specifically) yet - however, the general trend doesn't look optimistic. The Danes had the lowest voting percentage in a century. So, while we progress on making the knowledge of voting rights common, that doesn't automatically translate into usage. The next big challenge we need to tackle is the lack of knowledge and trust in politics. Basically, internationals need to answer these questions in their heads – Why? and what for?
A Dane is continuously cultivated into the arts of democracy and politics. An international most likely has been touched by the hands of democracy and politics. Some even left a little nervous. Rebuilding trust, exonerating the word "politician" of negative connotations, educating about political processes and practising with democracy are all needed before an international will feel comfortable to use their right to vote. Telling an international that they can vote is simply is not enough.
Brave future international candidate. I advise you to already start your campaign in 2022. One year before is just not enough. Especially if you plan to activate international voters, make a monthly target to meet at least 2% of the votes you need to get elected. Become visible in the community, join different associations, make or participate in events. Attract people with different backgrounds around you. Empower the international community by organising them locally. That is my advice to you. Start early, and I am sure you will make history in 2025. For you and for us all, that share your destiny.