Thursday May 06, 2021

Importance of exercising franchise in municipal polls

Published : 12 Apr 2021, 09:44

Updated : 04 May 2021, 20:08

  From editor’s desk

Municipality elections. DF File Photo.

Elections to all 310 municipalities in the country will be held on 13 June, as per the schedule deferred considering the coronavirus situation.

Considering the public health issue amid a worsening situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, all the parliamentary political parties, excepting the main opposition Perussuomalaiset (Finns Party), supported the government proposal to defer the elections to 13 June, which was originally scheduled to be held on 18 April.

We welcome the government decision and thank the political parties that took the health issue in consideration on a priority basis.

As per the new schedule, the period for the advance voting has been increased to two weeks this year from the normal one-week period to avoid crowd in the polling stations. As there is a constitutional obligation, elections need to be held to avoid possible stalemate in local administrations.

Although people’s interest in the polls increased in the last municipality polls, it still is not satisfactory and lower than long-term average. According to the Statistics Finland, the voter turnout in the municipal elections 2017 was 58.9 per cent, which was 0.6 percentage points higher than that in 2012. But the turnout was even higher, 61.2%, in 2008.

According to the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, participation of immigrant voters in municipal elections is very poor, with only 19.6% of the immigrant voters casting their votes in the elections of 2012 and 2008.

In the elections of 2017, the number, however, increased and about 25 percent of all eligible voters with foreign backgrounds cast ballots.

The national broadcaster Yle conducted a survey in 2017 where 39 per cent of the immigrants who did not cast votes were not aware of their right to vote in municipal elections.

As the local government plays a significant role to ensure the rights and wellbeing of people, it is very much important to exercise the franchise in the municipal elections. It is also important to the immigrants to select their representatives in the local government as disparity, discrimination, and racism are still prevailing in many sectors of society.

Before casting vote, the immigrants should have a clear idea about the ideologies of the political parties and candidates, as some political parties do keenly play a pro-immigrant role, a few of them play a dual role, while very few of them openly take position against the immigrants and internationalisation.

As a resident or citizen of the country, every person has the opportunity to play a role in the policymaking and development of the country through participating in the elections.

We urge all people, particularly the immigrants, to cast their votes in the municipal elections and thus help the progressive, pro-immigrant and pro-internationalisation parties to lead the municipalities and reject the fundamentalists, zealots, and anti-immigrants.