What’s the difference between a municipality and a region in Denmark?

Voters on Tuesday decide the makeup of local Danish governments in both municipalities and regions. What is the difference between the two and should it affect how you vote?

A sign in Denmark's North Jutland (Nordjylland) region. But what's a region and what's municipality (kommune)?
A sign in Denmark's North Jutland (Nordjylland) region. But what's a region and what's municipality (kommune)? Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

On Tuesday’s ballot are candidates for municipal and regional councils. There are 98 municipalities and five regions and foreign residents make up almost 1 in 11 eligible voters for the elections.


Municipalities (kommuner)

Denmark is organised into 98 different municipalities of varying sizes, for which municipal councils are elected every four years.

The primary task of municipalities is local administration of welfare and social needs. This encompasses social services, primary schooling and childcare, infrastructure, transportation, and tasks defined as integration of refugees and immigrants.

Other municipal areas include employment (such as running job centres), culture and leisure, setting up businesses, initiatives for children and young people, and city and rural fixtures and fittings.

In the municipal elections, candidates from various parliamentary, as well as independents and non-parliamentary, parties represent locally-tailored needs broadly in line with the ideology of the national party they represent. 

Regions (regioner)

The job description for regions involves healthcare, welfare, and social development.

The names of the five regions (Greater Copenhagen, Zealand, North Jutland, Central Jutland and South Denmark) are most commonly associated with hospital care and health care. If you want to know which region you’re in in Denmark, you’ll find its logo at the entrance to most hospitals or public health facilities.

Regions – and their elected boards – administrate public hospitals and the GP system. They also orchestrate regional mass transit and manage initiatives to create economic growth.

As with the municipal elections, regional elections are held every four years with council members elected to the various governing bodies. The five regions each encompass a larger number of municipalities.

“Most local politics are about very local issues,” Jakob Nielsen, editor-in-chief of Danish political news outlet Altinget, told The Local at an election briefing.

“Vote as you would in any election for those you trust to do the most for the schools or the elderly, or to steer the local economy in a responsible way,” Nielsen said.

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Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

A new poll indicates a majority of Danes is in favour of scrapping the country’s EU defence opt-out in an upcoming referendum.

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

The poll, conducted by Epinion on behalf of broadcaster DR, shows 38 percent of voters in favour of revoking the opt-out, compared with 27 percent who want to retain it.

28 percent said they do not know how they will vote, meaning there is still plenty of potential for both a “yes” and “no” outcome in the June 1st vote.

An earlier poll, conducted in March, put the two sides closer, with 38 percent of eligible voters then saying they would vote ‘yes’ to scrapping the opt-out, with 31 percent saying they would vote ‘no’ and 31 percent saying they didn’t know.

The government announced in March a June 1st referendum in which citizens will decide whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy. The referendum was called following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Denmark’s opt-out – retsforbehold in Danish – is one of four EU special arrangements negotiated by the Scandinavian country, and has seen it abstain from participation in EU military operations and from providing support or supplies to EU-led defence efforts.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have four EU ‘opt-outs’ and what do they mean?

In April, the wording of the question on voting ballots for the referendum was changed, following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

According to a breakdown of the new poll, younger voters and women are the most undecided groups. 20 percent of men said they were unsure how to vote compared to 38 percent of women.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 39 percent were unsure how they would vote compared to 22 percent of voters over the age of 56 who have yet to decide how to cast their votes.