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Yle News explains: Voting in Finland’s parliamentary election

More "new Finns" than ever are eligible to vote for the first time in April’s general election. Here's everything you need to know about the vote.

Image: Timo Jaakonaho / Lehtikuva

In the 14 April general election, voters will select 200 representatives to the Finnish Parliament, which is responsible for crafting the country’s laws. The members of parliament, or MPs, are elected from 13 electoral districts and are also responsible for representing the interests of their constituents.

Election day

Election day is on Sunday, 14 April 2019, but those who want to avoid queues can cast their ballot during advance voting, which runs from 3-9 April in Finland and from 3-6 April overseas.

Citizens can vote at any advance voting station in Finland or abroad. For the first time this year, electors who are casting their votes abroad will also be able to do so via a mail-in ballot.

How to vote

In March, Finnish citizens who have turned 18 by April 14 receive a poll card in the mail indicating the polling station they should go to on election day. The poll card also specifies neighbourhood advance voting locations, usually town halls, libraries and post offices. Polling stations are open from 9.00am to 8.00pm.

Finland is divided into 13 electoral districts, each with its own candidates. Voters can only choose from candidates belonging to their own district. On election day, voters may only vote at their local polling station.

At the polling station

Whether voting in advance or on April 14, you need to bring a valid ID to the polling station, for example a passport, police-issued ID card, driving license or Kela card equipped with a photo.

Once at the polling station, present your ID and get a ballot paper from the clerk. Go to a polling booth, write the number of the candidate you want to vote for in the circle, and fold it over. Do not write anything else or make any other markings on your ballot paper, as these could invalidate it.

Now you can head to the polling clerk next to the ballot box. They will stamp your folded ballot paper and show you where to place it in the ballot box.

Who are the candidates?

All the candidates running for Parliament will be listed on the website of the Ministry of Justice from mid-March. The ministry is responsible for administering elections in Finland.

In addition to meeting candidates on the campaign trail, voters can explore parties’ and candidates’ positions online and through social media.

Yle has launched an English-language version of its election compass tool to help voters assess how their views align with those of candidates running for office. For more on what some of the candidates and their parties stand for, check out Yle News' election debate that featured the nine major parties represented in Parliament. In the run-up to the election, Yle News’ weekly podcast All Points North has delved into the platforms and promises of Finland’s eight main political parties.

Election results

On election day electoral committees post advance voting results after polling stations close at 8pm. Preliminary results for the entire election are usually reported around 10pm.

Yle News will provide up-to-date coverage on the parliamentary election as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

New Finns - a diverse group with a growing voice

A record number of people -- 12,200 -- were granted Finnish citizenship in 2017, making them eligible to vote in this general election for the first time. The number of so-called "new Finns" has risen considerably since the last general election in 2015 when 8,260 were able to cast their ballot for the first time. People from Russia, Somalia, Iraq and Estonia make up the largest group of new citizens.

New Finns' voting enthusiasm has been lower than among the rest of the population. In the municipal elections of 2017, where all residents were eligible to vote, just 20 percent of non-Finnish citizens voted, compared to overall turnout of 58 percent.

In the last general election in 2015, some 70 percent of Finnish citizens in Finland voted, while 10 percent of Finns residing abroad cast their ballots. Voter turnout among overseas citizens could significantly rise this spring as 250,000 Finns living overseas will be able to vote via post for the first time.

The Ministry of Justice provides information on the elections in Finnish, Swedish, English and 19 other languages.

Referendum on welfare state’s future?

This general election will likely gauge the nation’s temperature on austerity reforms ushered in by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s centre-right government, which promised to pull Finland out of an economic downturn. In addition to Sipilä’s Centre Party, the government included the anti-immigrant Finns Party and the conservative National Coalition Party. The election of immigration hardliner Jussi Halla-aho to lead the Finns Party to see a more moderate splinter group, Blue Reform, replace it in government.

Sipilä’s term will be remembered for scaling back funding for the social welfare state, including education during a time of global economic growth. The government’s stick-and-carrot based ‘activation model’ which tightened conditions for unemployment benefits proved highly contentious, with the opposition Social Democrats and Left Alliance promising to abolish the measure if elected to the next government. Its failed attempt to overhaul social and health care services saw the government quit office in early March, although it will stay on in a caretaker capacity until the election.

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