This week, Petra is joined by Sini Korpinen. Sini is a political podcast host and a municipal election candidate. She visited for a chat about the significance of municipal elections for Finns and foreigners living in Finland.
Sini has been interested in Finnish politics from a young age. She remembers watching as Tarja Halonen was elected to be the first female president of Finland. Sini was 14 at the time, and she recalled watching the results of the decisions with excitement.In the municipal elections, voters select the city council members responsible for making decisions at the local level. In Finland, municipalities have a lot of power. They are allowed to make independent decisions about things like education, within national law of course.
If you are a citizen of Finland, another EU member state, Iceland, or Norway and you are 18 years old, you are eligible to vote. You are also eligible if you have had municipality of residence for an uninterrupted period of two years.
“On the local level, we are deciding about so many services that affect the everyday life of everyone in that municipality,” Sini said. “I think it’s very nice that even if you don’t have citizenship you can vote because… these things are affecting you. We want you to have a say in how things are done at the local level.”
Sini pointed out that, out of all elections held in Finland, Finns are most likely to vote in presidential elections. Given the limited role of the president in Finland in the daily life of Finns, the comparatively low voting rates in municipal elections are surprising to her.
We asked Sini for a breakdown of the parties and issues at stake in the election. She explained that Finland has nine parties in Parliament, including the right-wing National Coalition Party, the center Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Swedish People’s Party among others. However, there are other parties with candidates in the municipal election that are not represented in parliament.
For English speakers hoping to vote in the election, it might be difficult to find information about candidates’ positions on issues. Sini recommends narrowing it down based on party platforms and reaching out directly to the candidate with any specific questions— you are likely to get a reply!
“I actually used to work for the National Coalition Party,” Sini said. “One of the things that I did was I answered all emails that came to the party. Every day, I would use hours of my time just to answer those people.”
You do not need to register to vote, because those eligible to vote are registered automatically. If you vote in advance, you can cast your vote at any voting center. If you do not vote until voting day, you must vote at the center listed on the letter that was mailed to you. Instructions for filling in your ballot will be printed clearly— just don’t forget to bring your ID with you!
After the votes are counted, seats are divided based on the number of votes each party has received. After the number of seats awarded to each party has been decided, individual candidates are selected based on number of votes.“For example, if a certain party in Helsinki gets 25 seats, then the 25 seats are going to the 25 people who gained the most votes on that list,” Sini explained.
Sini hopes that everyone eligible to vote does so. She advises using your personal network and online resources to find candidates and parties that reflect your personal values. If you want to know more about the voting eligibility and election candidates, please take a look at the links below.