Are young Danes taking voting rights for granted?
Sam Richardson
Despite the election hype, our writer finds Danish youth uninterested in voting and disenchanted with local politics
by Emnet Assefa Degafe                                 source:-
Like every other person who is new to a place, signs and images mean a
lot to me to understand what is going on in the city. With pictures of
candidates hanging on poles, posted on buses and bus stops, it’s pretty
easy for someone who doesn’t speak or read any word of Danish language
to understand that it’s election time in Aarhus.

Coming from a developing country where issues of election are bigger than
ever because of the democratization process, I pretty much expected
elections to be a little bigger here. However, I found Aarhus as quiet as it
has always been since I arrived.

A campaign flyer that arrived to my mailbox started a conversation with my
Danish flatmates about the election, which brought to my attention what
this election would mean to the

youth of this city. Do they see it as a chance to use their power to decide
who should make their political decisions for them? I have talked to a
couple of young people who made me see it from a different point of view.
According to international population figures, Aarhus has a large young and educated population compared to any other city in Denmark.
It also is home for thousands of international expats who are here for different purposes but mainly for their studies. It also makes it extra
ordinary for Aarhus to let European expats to vote in the local elections.

Jemilla, 23 came from a town called Kolding. She lived in Aarhus for the past few years and she hasn’t seen that much of changes over
the past few years she has been here. She doesn’t see the use of voting in Aarhus as she has no idea of who the local politicians are
and what their program is.

“In our home towns, there would have been discussions about it, you at least could get to hear about the candidates
over dinner or tea with your family”
“Local elections are not the same as the national elections” she says explaining that most
of her peers don’t believe on the change that they could bring by voting on local elections.
She admits that she didn’t do her best to get elections information. But she also argues
that the election campaigns are not strong enough to get the attention of many young
people or to get her to vote. “In our home towns, there would have been discussions about
it, you at least could get to hear about the candidates over dinner or tea with your family”.
Here, there is no one informed to share information about the elections.

Soren, 21, doesn’t agree with Jemilla, he thinks the Danish youth take for granted the
level of democracy their country has offered. “Many people in many countries don’t have
elections or voting rights but we do and yet we don’t use it to exercise our right” he says.

The local election isn’t a point of discussion for Soren and other young people around him
mainly for two reasons, “not many people in my age are interested about it because they
don’t believe it changes anything” and also because “we all are going for our internship so
we won’t be around” he said with a smile on his face.
“Life has gotten expensive over the past two years I have been here but if you compare it with where I came from Aarhus is much better
on many things such as housing” he says comparing it to his home city Copenhagen. Yet still could do a lot better mostly in creating
opportunities for young professionals to stay and contribute their share in making it a much better place even after they are done with
their studies.

“Many people in many countries don’t have elections or voting rights but we do and yet we don’t use it to
exercise our right”

A research document that gave analysis to the 2009 municipal elections indicates that only 50 per cent of the public between the ages
of 22 and 29 voted for local elections in 2009 in Denmark, which was a 15.8 percentage points lower than for the public as a whole. The
research also indicates that young men vote a little less than young women. Jackob, 24 who is a master’s student at Aarhus University
in political science suggests that many do not think that the local government can do anything about certain things that they think
needs to be changed. And they tend to vote for a candidate that comes from the party they vote for in the national parliamentary

Taking as an example of the political debate that was held a couple of days back at Aarhus University Studenterhus, he suggests that
many candidates agree that there are things that need attention yet they don’t come up with the solution, which makes it difficult for
young voters to decide upon who to vote for. This means that “it’s hard for young voters to figure out which politician came up with a
solution for a problem so in the end they don’t see the point of caring and worrying to vote for local elections”.

Aarhus as home to a large young population has a lot more to offer. With its project of becoming ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2017,
more may be needed to be done in terms of creating jobs, having better policies that could manage rising housing and transportation
prices for students and many more similar issues, as suggested by the youth in the recent public debate at the Studenterhus. It could
also be time for politicians to notice the energy and capacity of this city’s young people, and help them achieve their ambitions.

Jutland Station is running a series of interviews for the 2013 Municipal Elections, with representatives of the major parties, and also
covering major election events

    Emnet Assefa Degafe is a freelancer, journalist and student from Ethiopia; she has worked in a number of
    assignments for local publications in Ethiopia. She is interested in social, politics and development issues and
    you can find her profile at
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