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From 1979 until 1994, Danish comedian Jacob Haugaard ran in all elections for the Danish Parliament (“Folketinget”) as a joke. Among his election promises were: Back Wind on all Bicycle Paths, Eternal Life, Bigger Christmas Presents, Nutella in field rations, and the division of all citizens’ days into eight hours of sleep, eight hours of rest, and eight hours of leisure time. Haugaard’s “party” was aptly called the “Union of Deliberately Workshy Elements”.

Of course he didn’t expect to be elected; no independent candidate had ever been elected for parliament. To be elected for parliament in Denmark, a party needs to win at least 2% of the total vote, or they must gain a “District Seat”; a seat won directly in an election district.

Haugaard ran in his home town of Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark. He must have noticed that he gained more and more support, maybe because of the way he spent the money given to him as a bonus for running in the election. Danish parties are paid a certain amount of money after an election, based on the number of votes cast for them. Jacob Haugaard spent the money he was paid on beer for his voters. (The turnout for beer was rather large and it is near certain that some of those who participated hadn’t actually voted for him. ;))

Of course this could only end in one way: In 1994, Jacob Haugaard was elected with 23,253 votes, more than 10% of the popular vote in some areas of Aarhus. Haugaard subsequently served one term as a member of parliament (actually taking the job seriously!) and then withdrew from politics – he didn’t want to risk being reelected!

Following his election, Haugaard compared his role to that of a King’s Jester in the old days: “I am the one who has to say all the things nobody else dares say, and I am certain that those who voted for me did so in protest against the current politicians who all use different words to say the same thing”.

In his first speech in parliament, he offered an explanation for why he was elected: If people do something seemingly stupid, it is usually because they see those in positions of authority doing stupid things.

Jacob Haugaard

Jacob Haugaard making his first speech in Parliament

It should be added that one of Haugaard’s election promises were carried through, making him more trustworthy than many full-time politicians: Nutella was added to the soldiers’ field rations.

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