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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Danish Liberal party demands ‘high ambitions’ from Social Democrats

Liberal (Venstre) party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen has said ambitions “above normal” should be aimed for in talks to form a government across the political centre.

Danish Liberal party demands ‘high ambitions’ from Social Democrats

On December 6th, ongoing negotiations to form a government will tie the all-time record for Denmark’s longest ever with the 35-day negotiation of 1975.

But the Liberal party is still holding out for more concessions from Frederiksen and the Social Democrats, its leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said after another major party on the right, the Conservatives, quit the talks over the weekend.

“The Liberals will continue negotiations with the Social Democrats in the coming days,” Ellemann-Jensen wrote on Twitter.

“If the Liberals are to commit to an agreement with the Social Democrats – whether in opposition or in government – the content of that agreement should be above the usual level of political ambition,” he said.

Ellemann-Jensen has cited to changes to the top tax bracket as a party priority, though that’s been a non-starter for the Social Democrats. 

The Liberals also hope to lower inheritance tax as well as income taxes for Denmark’s most modest earners, newswire Ritzau reports.

The withdrawal of the Conservatives means the Liberals are the only party on the right who could realistically enter government with the Social Democrats.

Six of the 12 parties elected to parliament at the election now remain in government talks with the Social Democrats.

These are the Liberals, Liberal Alliance and Danish People’s Party from the ‘blue bloc’ and the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) and Socialist People’s Party (SF), from the red bloc side. The centrist Moderates are the final party.

READ MORE: ‘Topskat’: What is Denmark’s high income tax bracket?