You can vote in the election if:
You are age 18 or over, and satisfy one of the three conditions:
• You are a Danish citizen.
• A citizen of an EU nation, Norway or Iceland, and resident in the Kingdom of Denmark.
• A citizen of any country who has legally resided in Denmark for at least three years before the election.
How do I register and vote?
All residents of Denmark who qualify to vote are automatically added to the electoral roll. Polling cards will be mailed out to all qualifying residents and will arrive no later than five days before the election. If you do not receive a polling card, contact your municipality. The polling card includes information on how and where to vote on November 21.
If you know that you cannot vote in person on November 21, you can vote early until November 17. Most often, early voting will take place in your municipality’s City Hall. In Copenhagen, several libraries will also be open for early voting. Contact your municipality for more information.
What do municipalities and regions do?
Denmark is divided into five regions (regioner) and 98 municipalities (kommuner), which are responsible for providing a range of services. Unlike local authorities in many countries, regions and municipalities have enormous authority, and allocate around half of all public spending in Denmark.
Municipalities are responsible for social services, schools, unemployment programmes, integration of immigrants, environmental planning, and libraries. Municipalities also set income tax levels. Their total budget in 2017 was 368 billion kroner.
Regions are responsible for health care and hospitals, psychiatry, soil pollution, resource mapping, regional traffic, and regional development of the environment, tourism, businesses, education and employment. Their total budget in 2017 was 115 billion kroner.
How does local politics work?
Municipalities are run by a political council (regionsråd or kommunalbestyrelse), which is elected every four years. There are always 41 members in a regionsråd, while the number of seats in a kommunalbestyrelse varies from 9 to 55, depending on the size of the municipality in question.
Seats in the regionsråd and kommunalbestyrelser are divided between parties using the d’Hondt method. To prevent lost votes, parties can join together in electoral alliances that pool votes and then divide them between the parties in the alliance. This means that small parties that don’t stand a chance of winning a seat can effectively give their votes to larger parties they are aligned with.
Each municipality has a mayor, who directs the finance committee. This is the only committee a municipality is obligated to have, though many municipalities have a number of permanent political committees. Each manages an administration with a specific area of responsibility, for example culture and leisure, or social affairs.
Leadership of the political committees is divided between the political parties after the election based on the performance of the parties and deal-making between political alliances. Very crudely speaking, the leader of the largest party will become mayor, then the leader of the next-largest party gets to choose their preferred committee, and so on.
This isn’t always the case, however, and it is not uncommon for parties to form unusual alliances and/or forsake the mayoral position in order to control prized political committees.
How is Copenhagen City Hall different?
Copenhagen municipality is the only municipality with 55 seats, making up what is called the borgerrepræsentation. The top political leader is called the Lord Mayor (overborgmester), which can be confusing in an international context, given that the Lord Mayor is normally a ceremonial, and not a political, title.
In Copenhagen, leaders of the permanent committees are called mayors, but in The Murmur we often refer to committee leaders as ‘deputy mayors’ for clarity.
Who are the parties?
There are nine main parties contesting almost every municipality in Denmark. These are divided roughly between two blocs, the left-wing “red” bloc and the right-wing “blue” bloc. However, political parties are more likely to form cross-aisle alliances in local, rather than national, politics.
Left-wing “red” bloc
Social Democrats (Socialdemokratiet) – The centre-left ‘labour’ party, traditional leaders on the left wing. Pro-welfare, but has adopted populist positions on immigration.
Social Liberal Party (Radikale) – Centrist, attempting to balance fiscal discipline with a social conscience.
Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti) – Sitting to the left of the Social Democrats, SF has a pro-welfare and environmental profile.
Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) – Sitting even further left than SF, Enhedslisten wants a strong public sector and has a strong focus on tackling inequality.
The Alternative (Alternativet) – A new centrist, pro-green and pro-entrepreneurial party, contesting its first municipal elections.
Right-wing “blue” bloc
The Liberal Party (Venstre) – A traditional centre-right liberal party and the leading party on the right wing.
The Conservative People’s Party (Konservative) – A traditional conservative party with a focus on fiscal discipline and family values.
Liberal Alliance (Liberal Alliance) – A libertarian, small-government and low-tax party.
Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) – An anti-immigration and pro-welfare party with populist characteristics.