Congress concludes mission to assess local elections in Finland
10 April 2017 - At a press conference held on 10 April in Helsinki, findings of the Congress' electoral visit in Finland were presented by Mrs Lelia Hunziker (Switzerland, SOC), Head of the Congress delegation to observe the local elections organised on 9 April 2017 in the country. The Congress deployed 10 teams to visit some 150 polling stations in Helsinki, Tampere, Vaasa, Joensuu, Oulu, Kuopio, Jyvaeskylae and Rovaniemi."The voting day was organised in a highly professional manner and procedures were fully in line with European standards for free, fair and transparent elections", stated Lelia Hunziker. The delegation welcomed the Finnish well-established system of voters' registration, recently also based on a sound computer population register. “We appreciated that the very first voter is given the opportunity to check the ballot box and the materials and we think that this is good practice for other Council of Europe countries” she added. The Congress also praised that only individuals who are permanently residing in a specific municipality have the right to vote at local level.
However, the Congress noticed some possible improvements, as a more consistent system of sealing of the ballot boxes and a strengthened role of independent candidates at the local and regional level. Regarding the issue of the regional administrative reform in Finland, Congress’ delegation expressed its concerns. “Even though many of the Congress’ interlocutors told that this reform was necessary because it will improve the access to health and social services for the Finnish population, we are concerned about the fact that regions will be given new responsibilities without the necessary financial autonomy”, Lelia Hunziker explained. “There is danger that this could result in a sort of decentralisation of centrally allocated funds instead of real regionalisation”, she concluded.
Contact: Renate ZIKMUND, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Head of the Division of Local and Regional Election Observation, Phone: + 33 659 786 455, email: Renate.ZIKMUND@coe.int