The 2022 parish elections: Voter turnout was 12.7%

The parish election committees have now verified the results of the 2022 parish elections. The national turnout percentage was 12.7, down from 14.4 in the previous elections in 2018. About 62% of voters voted in advance.

The average age of the newly elected representatives is 57 years, about a year older than the average for the previous term. Of the representatives, 4.5% are under 30 and half are aged 50–70. Women make up 54% of the elected, and men 42%. Candidates were not required to state their gender. Almost half (48.9%) of the elected are new representatives, which was also the case in the 2018 elections (49.5%).

Party-political electoral associations gained fewer representatives than in the previous elections. One-fifth of the representatives elected to parish councils and only 9% of the representatives elected to parish boards were on a party list. The Centre Party was once again the most commonly represented political party (8%), followed by the National Coalition Party (4%) and the Social Democratic Party (4%). Of other candidate groups, the Come All movement won 4% of the seats, with Conservative Laestadian electoral associations reaching an almost identical percentage of the vote.

Of the three million Finns who were eligible to vote, about 380,000 actually turned out for the election.

“Throughout the current parish election system, voter turnout has remained under 20%. In the 1990s, voter turnout fell to 13%, but it has been on the rise in several elections since then. National churches in other Nordic countries have seen similar turnout percentages, sparking discussion on whether this situation really is representative,” says Hanna Salomäki, director of the Church Institute for Research and Advanced Training.

Taivalkoski and Kinnula had the most active voters

Voter turnout was the highest in the dioceses of Lapua (16.3%) and Oulu (15.4%), and the lowest in the dioceses of Helsinki (9.7%) and Mikkeli (10.9%). The most active voters were in the Taivalkoski Parish in the Diocese of Oulu and in the Kinnula Parish in the Diocese of Lapua, both of which had a voter turnout of 36%. Other parishes that had a turnout of over 30% were Kaskinen (35%), Reisjärvi (35%), Perho (35%), Punkalaidun (34%), Kustavi (34%), Toivakka (33%) and Larsmo (31%).

Of the largest parishes, i.e. those with over 30,000 eligible voters, Seinäjoki boasted the most active voters: its turnout was 17%. Of all parishes, Lauritsala in the Diocese of Mikkeli saw the lowest voter turnout, with only 4% of eligible voters casting their vote.

Young people reluctant to vote

Voter turnout among 16–17-year-olds reached a record low at less than 7% (8.4% in 2018). The poor turnout came as no surprise: only 6.2% of the candidates were under the age of 30, which is the smallest percentage in the past 12 years. When 16–17-year-olds first gained the right to vote in parish elections in 2010, 15.3% of the age group voted. The 2010 election campaign targeted young people in particular, and the first-ever vote inspired many in the age group to cast their vote.

This year, the highest rate of young voter participation was seen in the dioceses of Lapua, Oulu and Porvoo, which also had the highest overall turnout. The most active 16–17-year-old voters were in the parishes of Punkalaidun (48%), Kurikka (33%) and Taivalkoski (32%). Not all parishes recorded the turnout for this age group separately.

“At our parish, young people turned up to vote in groups, either with their friends or their siblings. We had a broad range of candidates, including one upper secondary school student. It’s wonderful that young people want to take part in parish activities and improve them. Young people are the ones who will shape the future,” says Raili Suviranta, a Taivalkoski Parish pastor.

In the parish elections, parishioners elected 7,500 representatives in 354 parishes for the next four-year term of 2023–2026. The total number of candidates was about 14,300. In 44 parishes, the election was uncontested, and all candidates were deemed elected without a vote.

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