The worsening coronavirus situation in Finland — further complicated by the suspected arrival of the Omicron variant — will not lead to the postponement of the county council election, scheduled for 23 January 2022.
That's the view of Arto Jääskeläinen, Director of Electoral Administration at the Ministry of Justice, who said that a repeat of the situation last spring — when the municipal elections were moved from April to June as Covid cases escalated — is not being considered.
Jääskeläinen added that no proposals to postpone have been submitted to the ministry by any of Finland's political parties.
"The Ministry of Justice's opinion is that there is no need to postpone the elections," he said, adding that the situation last spring, when the decision was made to postpone the municipal elections, was different from the current one.
"Last February, when it was decided to postpone the municipal elections, vaccinations had just begun. Now more than 80 percent of people in Finland have been vaccinated. Vaccinations protect election officials and voters," Jääskeläinen said.
Advance voting for the election is scheduled to begin on 12 January.
County council elections
The county council, or regional, elections are being held in Finland for the first time. Voters will be asked to choose candidates to join their local county council, which will decide on social, health, fire and rescue services in their area.
The social and healthcare (or 'sote') reform will therefore establish 21 welfare areas across Finland and transfer responsibility for the provision of social, healthcare and emergency services to municipalities.
The exception is Helsinki, where the city will continue to be responsible for its social, health and rescue services. Capital residents will therefore not be voting in the election.
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A significant portion of municipal budgets and employees will be transferred to the welfare regions under the new reform. Pirkanmaa, which includes the city of Tampere, will become the largest welfare area in Finland, with a budget of about two billion euros and 18,000 employees.
This also means that the City of Tampere's budgetary expenditure will be reduced by about 64 percent, as the municipality will no longer be responsible for the provision of social, healthcare and emergency services.
The term of office of each county council will be four years and between 59 and 79 delegates will be elected onto each council, depending on the number of inhabitants in the welfare region.
From 2025 onwards, the county council elections will be held at the same time as the municipal elections.