Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) has confirmed to Yle that a decision on the schedule of municipal elections will be made next week.
The vote will take place on 18 April, but a postponement has been requested because of the worrying deterioration in the coronavirus situation, including concerns that quarantined people will not be able to vote.
Attorney general Tuomas Pöysti has also called for consideration to be given to postponing the elections.
However, Henriksson said the threshold for such a measure is high.
"We want to find solutions so that we can handle this well. And no one knows what the situation will be like in the fall. We don’t know if there are other mutated virus alternatives, which means that perhaps we should think about the circumstances in which we can hold elections at all," Henriksson said that Finland should look at examples from other countries where elections have progressed.
Parliamentary elections are currently being planned in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Henriksson cited as an example.
"Of course, in every municipality, we now have to think carefully about practical matters. Consideration should also be given to the possibility of voting outdoors, and home voting could also be possible for those who are unable to go to the polling station themselves or are quarantined," the minister added.
Henriksson admitted that the preparations for the municipal elections have been strange. For example, officials in his own ministry are in favor of postponing the April vote, while politicians want to stick to the original schedule.
The ministry is considering options
Henriksson said holding large home polls because of the quarantine of the coronavirus could prove overwhelming for municipalities. He also asked for a distinction to be made between quarantines due to confirmed infection and quarantines caused by possible exposure.
"If you are quarantined for a coronavirus infection, we will have a challenge to find ways to deal with the situation, and this is still being considered. But if you have been quarantined because you have been exposed to the virus, you can go for a coronavirus test and after getting a negative result you can go to the polls. In this way, we try to find solutions in a good and healthy way," the minister said.
Henriksson also rejected the criticism that his ministry officials were not sufficiently prepared for the coronavir-era elections. He said online and postal voting options were being explored and evaluated, but there wouldn’t have been enough time to make such big changes.
"There are many other dangers associated with online voting. We want to keep the elections credible in Finland. According to reports, online voting is difficult to do safely and there was no desire to go for it [as an option]," Henriksson said.
The introduction of vaccinations can offer hope
The turnout in the 2017 municipal elections was 58.8 percent.
Currently, most people aged 70-80 have not yet received a coronavirus vaccine.
Henriksson said he hoped the introduction of vaccinations had progressed by 18 April to such an extent that no age group sees voting as a potential health risk.
"I don’t want to rule out anything at this point. We have agreed that this decision will be made during February, and then we will see what the conclusion is. I will continue, like all other party leaders, assuming that the election is held," Henriksson said.
Source: The Nordic Page