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EU parliament elections: 4 things you need to know about voting in Finland

The UK’s protracted exit from the bloc looms over the election of members of the European Parliament.

Photo of EU voting ballot being stamped. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Finnish citizens will join many of their European counterparts to vote in a total of 751 new members of the European Parliament from 28 member states. Voters in Finland will go to the polls on 26 May to elect 13 MEPs who will serve for the next five-year term until 2024. However if the UK eventually finalises its departure from the EU, the number of Finnish MEPs will climb to 14.

1. Who can vote

All Finnish citizens who have reached the age of 18 by election day are eligible to vote in the election, regardless of their location at the time. If a Finnish national has registered to vote in another EU jurisdiction, he or she cannot also vote in European elections in Finland as well.

By the same token, eligible citizens of other EU countries resident in Finland as well as employees of the EU and of international organisations may also vote in Finland provided they have registered to vote here.

All eligible voters will receive a polling card from the Population Register Office, with all the information they require to cast their ballot. The card will provide the location of the voter’s polling station on election day as well as a list of advance polling stations in the electoral district.

2. When and how to vote

Advance voting in the election runs from 15 to 21 May in Finland and from 15 to 18 May for Finnish citizens living abroad who have registered to vote in Finland. Eligible voters living permanently abroad or staying abroad at the time of the elections may also choose to vote by post (siirryt toiseen palveluun) in the European elections. Some electors prefer to cast their ballots on the official election day – 26 May this year – when polling stations open between 9.00am and 8.00pm.

Candidates in the Europarliament election are the same in all electoral districts of Finland, so voters may cast their ballot for any candidate. The final candidate list was published on 25 April, just after the parliamentary election. Voters must present a valid photo ID to vote on election day or in advance voting. Valid forms of ID include a passport, identity card or driving licence. It is also possible to obtain a free temporary identity card from the police if a voter does not have a formal ID document.

For the first time this year, more than 250,000 Finnish citizens living outside the country will have the right to vote by postal ballot in the European Parliament elections. Voters eligible to submit a postal ballot must order the voting kit in advance, cast a vote and return the ballot paper to the relevant municipality in Finland.

3. Totting up ballots

Vote counting begins as soon as polling stations close at 8.00pm on election day. However early results based on advance ballots cast in the election are usually available at 8.00pm or soon afterwards.

Preliminary results will emerge later in the evening and constituency offices will conduct a recount of all the votes on 27 May. In Finland, final national results will be confirmed by the Helsinki electoral constituency office on 29 May.

More information about the vote is available in multiple languages on the website of the Ministry of Justice, which oversees all elections in Finland.

4. Brexit puts spanner in the works

This year’s Europarliament elections have a major fly in the ointment – Brexit – with the UK participating in the ballot despite its 2016 decision to leave the bloc. Prime Minister Theresa May’s repeated efforts to secure backing for her deal have been spurned by UK lawmakers and Brussels has granted an extension to the country’s departure deadline until 31 October. This has put Britain in the ignominious position of electing MEPs to a body that it has essentially voted to quit.

The UK currently has 73 MEP seats in the European Parliament. If it leaves the union, 27 seats will be assigned to other countries and the remaining 46 will be vacant. Finland was among the member states arguing that the extra seats should not be distributed, but that the legislature should simply shrink once the UK leaves the union.