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Elections to the parish councils now more "transparent and democratic"

A new election system was recently tested as 12400 members were newly appointed or re-elected. A success, say most parish councils

More people than expected run for election to the pastoral council in Slangerup Church in Northern Zealand. Photo: Malene Bjerre.

A few weeks ago, there was an important election in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark. The elections to 1653 parish councils took place, and approximately 12400 members were newly appointed or re-elected. Normally the elections are a rather quiet affair where most elections are uncontested elections, but not this time. The election law has changed. 

In order to make sure that elections are as transparent and accessible as possible, the elections to the parish councils are now more similar to the annual general assemblies you will experience in most associations. 

This means that on the day of election everyone has the possibility to present themselves and stand for election, also without prior agreement with the sitting parish council. But it also adds an element of surprise, because the staff and the sitting members of the parish council do not know who will show up at the elections.

A recurring theme during the preparations for the elections was of course Covid-19. But although there might be more nonvoters due to the risk of infection, the turnout was still fairly good. Most parishes were very clear in their corona-compliance communication, and in the parishes where there was expected a large turnout, the elections were relocated to a bigger venue.

In most parishes there were more candidates than available seats in the councils, but in some parishes it is necessary to arrange by-elections to fill up the last seats.

Almost each parish has a parish council with 5 to 15 members. Together with the pastor they are responsible for the local church life, activities, the church economy. They are employers for the church staff and they appoint pastors.   

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark has an annual budget of about 8 billion DKK (1,26 billion US dollars). Most of the revenue comes from church taxes that all church members pay through government taxes.