Finland: Left Alliance and Most of the Other Government Parties Won in the First Regional County Elections

The purpose of the vote was to elect representatives for the 21 county councils, newly formed public law entities which will take control of healthcare and social and emergency services.

The county elections took place in the whole of Finland except the city of Helsinki and Aland Islands on Sunday 23 January. In Helsinki, the municipal council continues to administer these services in the future. This was the first time that regional-level councils for these services have been elected in Finland; until the reform enters into force on January 2023, these tasks belong to municipalities, many of which were too small to organise these services. The councils will not have the right to tax their citizens; instead, they will receive their funds from the national government, although it is possible at some future point that a regional tax will be introduced.

The clear winners in comparison to those of the municipal elections in 2021 and parliamentary elections in 2019 were the Centre Party, the Social Democrats, and centre-right National Coalition party as well as Left Alliance, while The Finns Party and Greens lost the most. Left Alliance won 100 seats, that is, 8.0 per cent of the 1379 seats. This is slightly more than in municipal elections in 2021 (7.2% in the area in which elections were held now). Left Alliance got at least one seat in each county. In general, Left Alliance increased its support in big cities and continued to lose votes in the North.

In its campaign, Left Alliance focused on equality and non-discrimination in healthcare, the close geographic proximity to basic social and healthcare services, and higher salaries and better work conditions for healthcare workers, as well as opposition to the privatisation of healthcare.

Left Alliance party chairperson and the minister of education Li Andersson got the greatest number of votes (9,775 votes) of all candidates in her region (South-Western Finland).

The largest party was the centre-right National Coalition Party (21.6% of votes), which could increase its support even in comparison to municipal elections in 2021 (+0.9%) and especially in comparison with 2019 parliamentary elections (+5.2%). By comparison, the Social democrats (19.3%, +1.1% in comparison to 2021) became the second party just before Centre Party (19.2%, +2.4%) in comparison to the 2021 elections). The Centre Party, however, got the greatest number of seats (297) in county councils because its support is in general higher in smaller counties. The Finns?party got only 11.1% of votes which is strikingly low in comparison with the elections of 2021 (15.1%) and 2019 (18.3%). The Greens also suffered defeat, garnering less votes (7.4%) than Left Alliance for the first time since 2011. Turnout was exceptionally low, 47.5%, lower even than the municipal elections in June 2021 (55.1%).

Among the smaller parties, the only one that had some measure of successwas a new party that had split off from the Finns Party with the name Power Belongs to the People; it got 1.3% of votes and ten seats. One of the issues with which this new party is identified has been criticism of corona vaccinations. The Communist Party got 0.1% of votes and no seats.

The Finns Party focused on petrol prices and migration, which clearly are not issues within the competence of the counties.

The parties of government got 58.8 % of votes, which is more than they got together in parliamentary elections in 2019 and municipal elections in 2021. The Centre Party was able to get back some of the voters it had lost to the Finns party, and its good result make it easier for the party to continue in coalition government, while the Greens, who remained below Left Alliance, may intensify their political battle in the national government in the spring.

In total the result was, however, supportive of the current left-centre-green government 15 months before the next parliamentary elections in April 2023.