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

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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
10:01 CEST+02:00
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.

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.

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