Municipal Amalgamation

Regarding the  merging of municipalities

Chapter XII of the Local Authorities Act no. 138/2011 applies to the merging of municipalities. It stipulates the prelude and preparation of a referendum for merging, financing of merging projects, the management of municipalities after the approval of the merger and the establishment of a new municipality.

If two or more municipal councils decide to initiate formal merger talks under Art. 119 of the Act, they will appoint a Joint Committee who will be assigned the task of exploring the possibility of merging the local municipalities and preparing for a referendum. The Joint Committee has relatively free hands on how it works, but the Act stipulates that the Committee submits an opinion to the municipal councils concerned. Traditionally, Joint Committees have set a vision for a united municipality that residents can compare with the current situation.

The opinion of the Joint Committee is discussed by the municipal councils, who also decide when the merger referendum should take place. The opinion of the Joint Committee shall be presented with a minimum of two months' notice before the referendum, in order to give residents, the opportunity to make their decision about the merger.

The municipal council's electoral committees take care of holding the election with the same manner as if it were a municipal election. The same rules apply to voting rights as in municipal elections. The general rule is that the voter must be a resident of the municipality, 18 years of age and be a legal adult. Icelandic citizenship is not a condition, but different rules apply to the length of residence to obtain the right to vote according to citizenship. Nordic citizens gain the right to vote after three years of continuous residence, while other foreign nationals after five years of continuous residence.

Election results are binding for the municipal councils concerned. If a merger has been approved in accordance with Articles 119 and 120, the councils involved shall each appoint two to three representatives, as agreed between them, to form a special Board for the preparation of the establishment of the new municipality The Boardprepares a proposal to the Minister of Transport and Local Government regarding when a new municipal council should be elected, draws up articles for the new municipality and compiles information on rules, statutes and service fees that need to be uniformed.

A new municipal council takes over the administration of the new municipality 14 days after Election Day and then the new municipality is formally established.


Further reading:

Local Authorites Act no. 138/2011

Local Government Elections Act no. 5/1998