The Finnish municipal elections are on April 18, 2021. In this blog post we talk about why you should care about these elections and how you can get involved in them. Even if you are not a Finnish citizen.
Before April 18th, we’ll definitely talk more about voting and elections in Finland. But we start this talk this early because if you want to become involved in Finnish municipal politics as a candidate, the time is now.
Why voting in municipal elections is important
In municipal elections, Finnish residents choose their representatives, councilors, to the municipal councils. The number of elected councilors depends on the size of the municipal population. The size of municipal councils varies from 13 to 79 councilors.
Municipal councils are the highest decision making bodies in Finnish municipalities. The most important job of municipal councilors is to decide how your municipal tax euros should be used.
The state has placed many mandatory obligations for municipalities. All of them, for example, have to provide citizens with schools, daycare, healthcare, social services, and elderly care. The municipalities, however, have a fair amount of self-determination in terms of how these services are produced.
Municipalities also provide citizens with libraries, and culture and leisure services (think for example swimming halls and ski tracks during the winter). They plow the snow off the streets during the winter and make sure that your tap water is clean.
In other words, the municipality and the decisions its elected officials make have a huge effect on your day-to-day life. Thus it makes sense to take an interest in the elections and vote.
Who can vote in municipal elections
Finnish citizens, citizens of Norway and Iceland, as well as citizens of the Member States of the European Union, have a right to vote in Finnish municipal elections if they have turned 18 by the date of the election and are residents of the municipality in question on February 26, 2021.
Also eligible to vote are all foreigners at least 18 years of age if they are residents of the municipality in question on February 26, 2021, and have been residents of a Finnish municipality uninterrupted for at least two years prior.
European Union and international organization employees are also eligible to vote if they are habitually resident in the municipality in question on 26 February and if they have indicated in writing to the Digital and Population Data Services Agency that they wish to exercise their right to vote.
All eligible voters will be mailed a notice of their right to vote. But in addition to voting, there are other ways of getting involved. One is becoming a candidate oneself.
Becoming a candidate
In Finland, political parties choose whom they will accept as their candidates. Parties make their selections at the local level. This is because creating the best list of candidates for the party in question requires local knowledge. Party officials responsible for candidate selection need to ensure that the candidates commit to party values and platforms, and can generate votes for the party in the elections.
In order to be able to function as a councilor one obviously needs at least some language abilities either in Finnish or Swedish. It depends on the party how fluent they expect one to be. This you can only find out by contacting the relevant party.
Each party can nominate 1.5 times as many candidates as there are councilor seats in the local municipal council. And the parties do try to fill their lists. The main reason for this is that due to the Finnish electoral system every vote the party can generate helps the party. Partly it’s also a question of prestige. If a particular party cannot attract enough candidates to fill its list, it signals the party’s popularity in the municipality.
The largest registered political parties in Finland
If you are interested in becoming a candidate in Finnish municipal elections, you need to contact the local chapters or associations of Finnish political parties. Currently, there are 18 registered political parties in Finland. There you can find links to the relevant webpages of the 8 largest parties and then a link to a page where you can find the whole list:
- Suomen Sosiaalidemokraattinen Puolue – Finland Socialdemokratiska Parti r.p (The Social Democratic Party of Finland). Here is the link to the page where they list the contact information of their local associations. On their website, they have a form with which you can tell them you are interested in becoming a candidate. You can find it here. The party has also at least some information online both in English and in Russian.
- Suomen Keskusta r.p. (Centern in Finland r.p., The Centre Party). Here is a list of their local associations with contact information. They also have a website for candidate recruitment. Here’s the link. Their entire website seems to be only in Finnish.
- Kansallinen Kokoomus r.p. (Samlingspartiet r.p., The National Coalition Party). They have a web form you can fill in if you want to become a candidate. Here are their local associations. Their webpages are entirely in Finnish.
- Svenska folkpartiet in Finland r.p., Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue (The Swedish People’s Party in Finland) has a website in English for those interested in becoming a candidate. You can find it here. The site includes contact information for their local Liaison Officers.
- Suomen Kristillisdemokraatit (KD) – Kristdemokraterna i Finland r.p. (Christian Democrats of Finland) have an English language page, but their municipal election page is only in Finnish.
- Vihreä liitto r.p. Gröna förbundet r.p. (Greens) have already selected their candidates for the municipal elections, but here are all their local organizations.
- Vasemmistoliitto r.p. (Vänsterförbundet r.p., Left Alliance) has an English language page. But their municipal elections page is in Finnish.
- Perussuomalaiset r.p. Sannfinländarna r.p. (True Finns) have also an English language webpage, but their candidate attraction page is in Finnish.
In addition to these eight largest parties, there are also 10 additional registered political parties in Finland. You can find the complete list of parties here.
More about municipal elections
As with our blog series on salaries, we will be returning to the topic of municipal elections a few times before the election date.
We will be talking about the Finnish voting system a bit and look also a bit more closely at voting behavior in Finland. So, stay tuned for more politics.
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