The January 2022 county elections in Finland

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On January 23, we will have the very first county elections in Finland. In this blog post, we’ll tell you what those elections are, who are eligible to vote, how voting works, and how to find the candidates.

In the spring of 2021, we had municipal elections. Prior to those, we published several blog posts to not only encourage voting but also get internationals in Finland to stand for candidacy. Similarly, we are now encouraging all eligible international voters to use their vote in the upcoming wellbeing services county elections.

The new wellbeing services counties

On January 1, 2023, the responsibility for wellbeing services – healthcare, social services, and rescue services – will move from Finnish municipalities to the so-called wellbeing services counties. 

The rationale behind this massive reorganization of some of our essential public services is the idea that bigger actors are more capable of ensuring the equitable distribution of such services in the future. As the population of Finland ages and needs more of such services, public entities providing them are under increasing pressure. Placing that pressure on larger service organizers and providers should ease it. 

There will be 21 new wellbeing services counties (hyvinvointialue in Finnish in singular) above the municipal level. 

However, the City of Helsinki will remain responsible for organizing health, social services, and rescue services within its own city limits. Thus, Helsinki does not belong to a separate wellbeing services county nor does it legally become one itself either. 

All municipalities will continue being responsible for promoting the health and benefit of their residents. But these wellbeing services counties (+ the city of Helsinki) will be responsible for organizing the actual services for their inhabitants. Here you can find out what your wellbeing services county will be starting January 1, 2023. 

These 21 counties will form five larger collaborative areas around the Finnish university hospitals to secure specialized services. University hospitals are located in Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Kuopio, and Oulu. 

The public sector will remain the primary provider of these services but in many places private sector and third sector service providers will provide at least supplemental services. How exactly these services will be provided and by which providers will be decided by the highest decision-making body of each wellbeing services county, the county council. 

Voters will elect the first councils on January 23, 2022, and they’ll start working in March 2022.

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The county councils

The county councils will sit for four years. 

Each county decides how many councilors it has but the law has set the minimums for each population bracket. For example, a county that has less than 200 000 inhabitants has to have at least 59 councilors. A county with 200 001 – 400 000 has to have at least 69 councilors, and so forth.

However, in this very first election, the number of county councilors will be the minimum number set by the law for a county that size. 

The county populations were determined on August 31. The number of councilors was set for each county in this election then as well. So, this time 11 wellbeing services counties will have 59 councilors, 6 counties will have 69, and 4 will have 79 county councilors. 

From 2025 onwards, county elections in Finland will be held together with municipal elections. This first time the country elections are held separately. 

The county elections in Finland in 2022

In the county elections in Finland, the eligible voters of these wellbeing services counties will elect their representatives to the county council. As the council decides how these essential services will be organized and produced, the outcome of the elections is important to every inhabitant.  

Because the City of Helsinki is not a wellbeing services county itself nor does it belong to any other county, there will not be county elections in Helsinki. Helsinki residents made the equivalent voting decision when they voted in the municipal elections in April of this year. 

The county election voting day is January 23, 2022. However, you can also vote in advance. The advance voting period in Finland is January 12 – 18, 2022. 

The election system

The election system in the county elections is similar to the municipal elections. One wellbeing services county is one electoral district. Voters vote for the candidates standing for election in their own county.

The electoral system is a so-called open-list proportional system. In it, a political party receives the number of seats in the council that is proportional to the number of votes it receives in relation to other groups. So, if a group or a political party receives 10 % of the votes it should also get 10 % of the seats. Finnish elections follow the so-called d’Hondt method in determining proportionality. 

The right to vote of foreign nationals

The right to vote in these county elections is determined the same way as in the 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 these elections if they have turned 18 by the date of the election and are residents of a municipality belonging to a wellbeing services county on December 3, 2021.

Also eligible to vote are all foreigners at least 18 years of age if, on that date, they are residents of a municipality belonging to a wellbeing service county, and have had a municipality of residence in Finland uninterruptedly for at least two years prior to December 3, 2021.

European Union and international organization employees are also eligible to vote if they are habitually a resident of a municipality belonging to a wellbeing services county on 3 December 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 receive a notice of their right to vote. This notice should reach voters by the end of December 2021. 

The notice tells, for example, the date of the actual election and the early voting period, and your polling place. You don’t need this card at the polling station when you vote but having it usually speeds things along. 

The Ministry of Justice has a good website for election information. Visit their site for further and more detailed information.

Candidates for councilors

The country elections boards will confirm the candidate lists and the candidate numbers on December 23, 2021. Thus we can’t point you to official candidate lists yet.

However, the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE will open its “voting machine” on these pages in Finnish on January 4.

Several media companies in Finland publish these same types of “machines” for every election. The way that these work is that you will be asked certain questions. The machine then matches your answers with the answers of local candidates. As a result, you will see a list of people who most closely match your opinions. 

Here are some of those:

  • For Pirkanmaa region, Aamulehti has already published theirs. You can find that here
  • Turun Sanomat doesn’t seem to have it’s own “machine” but it does have all Southwest Finland candidates listed here
  • Ilta-Sanomat “machine” is here.
  • The Helsingin Sanomat one is here.

Here are links to the election webpages of the largest Finnish political parties. Most of them already have their candidate lists up although the candidates won’t have their numbers until next week. 

  • Suomen Sosiaalidemokraattinen Puolue – Finland Socialdemokratiska Parti r.p (The Social Democratic Party of Finland) lists its candidates in Finnish by wellbeing service county here
  • Suomen Keskusta r.p. (Centern in Finland r.p., The Centre Party): On this Finnish language webpage you can search for their candidates based on the wellbeing service county you live in. 
  • Kansallinen Kokoomus r.p. (Samlingspartiet r.p., The National Coalition Party): Here’s a link to the party’s wellbeing service county election platform. I assume that their list of candidates will appear on this same page once the lists of candidates have been verified. 
  • Svenska folkpartiet in Finland r.p., Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue (The Swedish People’s Party in Finland) has their English-language listing here.  
  • Suomen Kristillisdemokraatit (KD) – Kristdemokraterna i Finland r.p. (Christian Democrats of Finland) have their list here.
  • Vihreä liitto r.p. Gröna förbundet r.p. (Greens) provides their list of candidates by county here. Their list you can also search in English. 
  • Vasemmistoliitto r.p. (Vänsterförbundet r.p., Left Alliance) also has an English-language site for candidate search. It’s here.
  • The candidates of the Perussuomalaiset r.p. Sannfinländarna r.p. (True Finns) can be found here again listed by wellbeing service county.

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.  

Hopefully, this information will help and encourage you to use your vote in the January 2022 county elections in Finland!

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