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Survival Guide to Danish politics: Can you vote as an international in Denmark?

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

Survival Guide to Danish politics

Many of us, international residents in Denmark, choose not to involve ourselves in the local politics. Why? Most of the time it’s because we are not aware of the possibility or are simply ignorant of the Danish political scene and how it can influence us.

Regardless of the reason, there are not many resources in English where one can actually grasp the Danish political climate and especially our possibility of participation in it.

Metin Lindved Aydin has been kind enough to guide us through what internationals need to know about local politics and especially local elections.

Metin himself is a candidate for office in the local elections of 2021 in Aarhus, representing the Social Liberal party.

Survival Guide to Danish politics

Interview with Metin

Disclaimer: Student Survival Guide does not intend to promote a political party over another and the purpose of the information Metin shared has purely an informative and educational scope.

Before going into details, let’s answer the obvious question that might be on your mind, if you are an international living in Denmark and reading this post.

Can internationals in Denmark vote?

Yes, we can! We are allowed to exercise our voting right both in the local elections and the elections for the Regional Council. More elaborate info on this can be found below.

For example, if you reside in Aarhus, you can vote for members of Aarhus city hall and the Regional Council, Region Midt.

Can internationals in Denmark vote

Map of the municipalities within Region Midt. Aarhus is shown in bright green.

When are the elections in 2021?

Elections for the Local and Regional Councils are held every 4 years. In 2021, they will take place on Tuesday, the 16th of November.

Now let’s get more specific about those who have the right to vote.

Who is allowed to vote, as a non-Dane?

Firstly, in order to vote for the municipal and regional elections, you must of course be of age (>18 years old) and reside (have your address) in that certain municipality /region.

In addition, you must fulfil one of the following conditions:

  1. Be a Danish citizen;

  2. Be a citizen of an EU country;

  3. Be a citizen of Iceland or Norway;

  4. Have been living (without interruption) in the Kingdom of Denmark for the past 4 years before election day. The Kingdom consists of Denmark, Faroe Islands and Greenland;

You don’t have voting right if you:

  1. Are on tolerated stay;

  2. Have been expelled from Denmark by a final court judgement (according to sections 22-24 or 25 c of the Aliens Act);

  3. Have been expelled from Denmark by a final administrative decision (according to sections 25-25b of the Aliens Act);

  4. Are a foreigner who resides in Denmark in order to serve a sentence (convicted by an international criminal court);

A bit about Region Midt and Aarhus City Council

The Regional Council Region Midt, which is physically located in Viborg, is led by a chairman and has 41 seats that are occupied by 11 parties. The Regional Council meets once a month.

The City Council is led by an elected mayor and 5 councillors. These can be members of different parties (currently they come from 5 parties) and they are the ones standing as the political leadership of Aarhus.

In total, the City Council has 31 seats (including the mayor and councillors) and currently consists of members coming from 7 different parties. The City Council meets every 14 days.

Both the City Council and the Regional Council have different responsibilities.

City Council responsibilities (examples):

-Social Affairs and Employment

  1. Counseling and support to prevent social problems.

  2. Assistance for the support of the unemployed, the sick and pensioners.

  3. Employment-oriented tasks for citizens and companies.

  4. Danish education for adult foreigners and others.

  5. Operation of social institutions.

- Technology and Environment

  1. Planning tasks, architectural consultancy, land purchase and sale etc.

  2. Traffic, including public transport, roads and paths as well as parking control.

  3. Nature and environmental management.

  4. Fire department.

  5. Entrepreneurial functions.

  6. Drinking water and wastewater.

  7. Waste and heat.

- Health and care

  1. Care and practical help for people with disabilities.

  2. Rehabilitation, prevention and health centers.

  3. Local centers and homes for the elderly.

  4. National pension and housing benefit.

- Culture and Citizens' Service

  1. Civil service and libraries, including ordination of marriages.

  2. Leisure and sports.

  3. Culture.

  4. Music house.

  5. Symphony Orchestra.

- Children and teenagers

  1. Primary schools, special education and special educational assistance for young children.

  2. Day care institutions, day care, clubs and secondary school.

  3. Health care, school doctor and dental care.

  4. District cooperation.

Region’s responsibilities (examples):

- General healthcare

  1. General practitioner;

  2. Special doctor;

  3. Physiotherapy;

  4. Podiatry;

  5. Pharmacy;

  6. Chiropractic;

- Hospice

- Psychiatry

- Regional development

  1. Trafic;

  2. Labour market council;

  3. World heritage;

- International programs

- LAG (development programs)

- TV and media

- Culture

- Education

  1. Gymnasiums;

  2. SOSU;

Before diving into the voting process, it would be a good idea to know who to vote for 😅.

The political parties

Metin has compiled a list of parties, presented alphabetically and listed on a left-right scale, based on their economic policies.

Be aware, however, that this scale is not fit for explaining the parties’ attitude towards climate change, immigration etc., but it is rather an approximation.

A - Social Democrats (Socialdemokratiet), centrist left

- want to stop the savings on welfare and education.

- want to make Denmark greener.

- want to introduce a new right to early retirement for those who are most worn out and have worked for most years.

B – Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), centrist

- want a new direction for Denmark, which is independent of Dansk Folkeparti.

- want to make agriculture climate-friendly and create more free nature.

C – Conservative Party (Det Konservative Folkeparti), right

- want a strict and sensible immigration policy, where more people come to work and learn Danish.

- want to hire more doctors and nurses.

- want to ease the tax so that there is growth in the community and it becomes cheaper to be a family.

D – The New Civil (Nye Borgerlige), far right

- want to introduce an asylum stop.

- criminal aliens must be deported consistently after the first conviction.

- all foreigners must support themselves.

F – Socialist Folk Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti), left

- want to strengthen the immediate welfare.

- want to fight child poverty and inequality.

- want an ambitious climate law, which makes Denmark the world's greenest country.

G – The Vegan Party (Veganerpartiet), left

- want to improve on animal rights.

- want to improve on health in general.

-want to improve on the environment.

I- Liberal Alliance (Liberal Alliance), right

-lower taxes and have more growth in the economy.

-want less bureaucracy.

-want to create more freedom in Denmark.

K – Christian Democrats (Kristendemokraterne), centrist right

- want to support the children and the families.

- want all people to have freedom of belief, freedom of thought and expression.

- want to set the state pension age at 65.

O – Danish Folk Party (Dansk Folkeparti), far right

- want to ensure that far more refugees and migrants return home and help rebuild their homeland as soon as there is peace.

- want a Denmark in balance.

- want to raise welfare in Denmark, so that we continue to be one of the world's best welfare societies.

V – The Liberal Party (Venstre), centrist right

- want to ensure that not too many asylum seekers come to Denmark.

- want to strengthen welfare so that there are more warm hands to take care of the sick and the elderly.

- want to take care of the environment and climate.

Ø – The Unity List (Enhedslisten), far left

- want to make society sustainable in terms of nature, environment and climate.

- want to employ more people in schools and kindergartens, in the hospitals and in the elderly care.

- want to create more security for people who are affected by illness, unemployment or attrition at work.

Å – The Alternative (Alternativet), centrist left

- want to spend more on the green transition.

- want to create a more just and socially sustainable society.

- want Denmark to be a great humanitarian power.

Now that you have an idea of the candidates, you have to decide whom you want to support.

After you make up your mind, it’s time to vote!

How do you vote in Denmark?

Receiving the election notification

The election notification is a paper card that the municipality sends you by post before the election. If you have voting right, then you should receive it the latest 5 days before the elections; for the 2021 elections, you must thus receive it on November 11th the latest.

Even if there are 2 elections (City Council+Regional Council), you will still receive one document/notification.

The election notification gives you information regarding:

  1. the day and the period the election is held;

  2. the pooling station where you should vote ;

What to do if you didn’t receive the election notification?

In case you didn’t receive the election notification 5 days prior to the election day, even though you have the right to vote, then you must contact your municipality right away.

You must also contact them in case the information on the notification is wrong.

What happens on election day?

Once you get to your polling station with your election notification, you must hand it in to the electoral roll leader. He uses your election notification to make sure you are part of the electoral roll and that you haven’t already voted. In addition, you have to state your date of birth.

Then, you will receive two ballot papers (the ones you vote on), one for the local election and one for the regional.

You then vote by marking an “X” on both of them, in front of the party/candidate you wish to support.

NB! If you write anything else on the paper, then your vote gets discarded.

If you happen to make a mistake, or the X is not visible enough, you just have to present the incorrectly filled paper and you will receive a new ballot paper from the electoral roll leader.

When you finish voting, just slide your ballot papers into the specific boxes and you are done.

Congrats for exercising your democratic right!

Thank you, Metin Lindved Aydin, for providing us with this information!

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