Elections and Finnish Democracy
A democracy depends on participation. That’s the central thesis on which every election is based. Authorities, from local town halls all the way up to the Government, the President and the Prime Minister, hold their positions according to election results, which are determined at the discretion of the voters. Just as Finland needs international talents to grow and thrive economically and socially, it also needs the votes of each and every one who is eligible to cast theirs. Otherwise, the election results have no mandate from the citizenry, and democracy is not actually representative of what the people want. All of this is crucial in 2021 as the municipal elections, once postponed due to COVID-19, will take place on Sunday, 13 June.
Who Gets to Vote?
While many might think that a person needs a lot of qualifications to be eligible to vote, it’s actually very inclusive. Quoting from the official info site for all Finnish elections:
“In municipal elections of Finland, entitled to vote are Finnish citizens who reach the age of 18 years on election day at the latest and reside in Finland. In addition, entitled to vote are:
1) citizens of other EU Member States, Iceland and Norway residing in Finland, under the same conditions as Finnish citizens; and
2) citizens of other states if they have resided continuously in Finland for at least two (2) years on the 51st day before election day, when the voting register for municipal elections is established.”
So, if you hold a Finnish citizenship, you’re good to go. But, if you hold a citizenship of any other EU country, Iceland or Norway, you are also eligible to vote. You are even eligible even if you are not a citizen of Finland or any other EU country if you have resided in Finland for at least two years on a date which is 51 days before election day. This year that date was 23 April 2021. If any of these conditions hold true for you, you are entitled to cast your vote at the 2021 municipal elections!
Thankfully, you don’t have to keep track of this yourself, as the Digital and Population Data Services Agency has the data, and you’ll receive notification of your eligibility. However, it’s good to be prepared and know in advance that you can vote, so you can take the time to get to know the candidates.
Why Voting Matters
Paradoxically, municipal elections usually have some of the lowest voter turnout of all the elections in Finland, yet they actually have huge ramifications for an individual’s everyday life. They are the elections that determine who hold key roles in the decision-making process in your municipality. From bus schedules to elderly care to services for the unemployed, voting in a municipal election is one of the major ways to affect those things and make your voice heard. It’s also a great way to participate in civic society and hold up Finnish values of democracy and fairness.
Steps for Eligible Voters
The first step after making sure you are eligible is to familiarize yourself with who are on the ballot in your municipality. Often the candidates belong to a party, although independent candidates also participate. Most, if not all, parties and candidates post their information online so that it’s readily available.
This year’s elections are special, in that it’s also a good idea to read about how COVID affects the voting process and what to do when you get to the polling station. All of that information can be found here. The municipal elections also include the option of voting early, and doing so can help reduce the crowdedness of the polling stations on election day.
The Ministry of Justice has compiled PDF’s in various languages that contain all the information you need. You can find them by clicking here.