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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Moderate party downplays importance of joining new Danish government 

After another round of negotiations with acting Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Moderate leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen says it’s beside the point if his party joins Frederiksen’s vision of a ‘broad, central’ government.

Moderate party downplays importance of joining new Danish government 

Rasmussen, who was Prime Minister before Frederiksen when leader of the Liberal (Venstre) party, led the newly-formed Moderates into parliament in their first election on a platform of installing a centrist government.

The Moderates have a relatively strong hand in the negotiations with their 16 seats from 9.3 percent of the vote share in the election, which took place one month ago.

“For us, it’s not a separate ambition to be part of such a government,” Rasmussen said outside of the prime minister’s official residence at Marienborg on Wednesday.

“Whether we are in or not is less important. But we want to put ourselves in a position where we can influence the content. That’s what matters,” he said. 

“It strikes me that Mette Frederiksen and I go a long way towards sharing the analysis of what’s good for Denmark,” he added.

READ ALSO: What does Denmark’s Liberal party want from government negotiations?

Rasmussen has previously backed a potential government involving the Social Democrats and Liberals along with the Moderates, calling it an “excellent starting point”.

But he said on Wednesday that his party could lend support to a central coalition without being part of the government itself.

The Moderates could be influential “by forming the parliamentary basis for a government which consists of parties from both sides of the infamous political centre,” he said.

Although the centrist party is heavily involved in talks led by Frederiksen, it does not have decisive seats which could give either the left or right wings an overall majority. The left wing ‘red bloc’ took a single-seat victory in the November 1st election, meaning a left-wing government could be formed without the support of the Moderates.

But Frederiksen has eschewed the option of a government reliant on the support of the parties furthest to the left, the Red Green Alliance and Alternative, maintaining her pre-election pledge to seek a coalition across the centre.

There is no majority which could put a ‘blue bloc’ or conservative government in place.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Danish election result