Central Principles of Holding Elections

All Finnish elections follow the principles below:

The elections are direct. Electors (those entitled to vote) vote directly for the person they want to be elected.

The elections are proportional. In proportional elections each party or other group gains seats in relation to the votes cast for it compared with the votes cast for other groups. For example if a party gets 20 percent of the votes, it should also get 20 percent of the seats. (This does not apply to presidential elections in which votes are only cast for a candidate, not for a party.)

The elections are secret. Secrecy of the ballot means that neither the election authorities nor anyone else get to know for whom voters have cast their votes or whether they have returned an empty ballot.

The right to vote is universal and equal. A universal franchise signifies that the right to vote only depends on requirements which citizens usually fulfil. For example the only requirements in the parliamentary elections are: Finnish citizenship and 18 years age. An equal franchise means that every person entitled to vote has an equal right to influence the election results, i.e. everyone has the same number of votes. In general elections everybody has one vote.

Voting is personal. The right to vote may not be used through an agent.

Voting must take place in front of election authorities. This procedure aims to guarantee the general reliability of the elections, to secure the right and opportunity of voters to express their free will, and to ensure that election secrecy is preserved. Provisions on the selection of election authorities and the performance of their duties are laid down in the Elections Act. Postal voting is an exception to this rule, as it is conducted without the supervision of the election authorities. In postal voting, two external witnesses, in addition to the voter himself or herself, must attest that voting has taken place in such a manner that election secrecy has been preserved and electoral freedom has been respected.

The system is a combination of voting for individuals and parties. A vote goes both to a party and a person. (This does not apply to presidential elections in which votes are only cast for a candidate, not for a party.)