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Presidential elections, quality description

1. Relevance of statistical information

1.1 Summary of the information content of statistics

Presidential elections are held by direct popular vote every six years. Statistics Finland produces official statistics on presidential elections, which consist of the first and second elections for the President of the Republic. The main content includes: the numbers and percentages of votes cast for presidential candidates separated into votes received in advance voting and on the actual election day, information on the numbers of persons entitled to vote and those who voted by gender, numbers of advance voters by gender.

1.2 Essential concepts
Holding of elections

According to the Finnish Constitution the President of the Republic is elected by a direct vote for a term of six years. The President shall be a native-born Finnish citizen. The same person may be elected President for no more than two consecutive terms of office.

The President is elected by a direct vote, if necessary in two rounds. Election day is the fourth Sunday of January in the election year. If one of the candidates receives more than half of the (approved) votes cast in this (first) election, he or she is elected President. If none of the candidates has received a majority of the votes cast, a new election willl be held on the second Sunday after the first election between the two candidates who received most votes in the first election. The candidate receiving most votes in the second round is elected President. If only one candidate is nominated, he or she is appointed President without an election. The President assumes office on the first day of the month following the elections.

A president has been elected by direct elections in 2006 (Tarja Halonen), in 2000 (Tarja Halonen) and in 1994 (Martti Ahtisaari).

Before that the President was elected:

  • By Parliament in 1919 (K.J. Ståhlberg) and 1946 (J.K. Paasikivi);

  • By electors in 1925 (L.K. Relander), 1931 (P.E. Svinhufvud), 1937 (Kyösti Kallio), 1950 (J.K. Paasikivi), 1956, 1962, 1968 and 1978 (Urho Kekkonen), and in 1982 (Mauno Koivisto);

  • By the electors of 1937 in 1940 and 1943 (Risto Ryti);

  • With a special enactment in 1944 (Mannerheim) and 1974 (Urho Kekkonen); and

  • Through a combination of direct and electoral elections in 1988 (Mauno Koivisto).

Legislation on elections

The present basic provisions relating to the election of the President are included in the Finnish Constitution and by the revision of election legislation in 1998, all provisions on elections were collected into one single act, the Election Act (714/1998), which entered into force on 8 October 1998. Elections are held in accordance with the Election Act in force, more details on the Ministry of Justice’s web pages (=> Legislation) and, Election Act (714/1998).

Election procedure and changes

Up to the 1982 election, the President was elected by an indirect election procedure. The citizens voted for a college of 300 electors who assembled to elect the President of Republic. In 1981, the Constitution was amended by increasing the numbers of electors in the college to 301. The Presidential election procedure was reviewed twice, in 1987 and 1991, to make it more democratic.

  • In 1987 the procedure was a mixed election system in which those entitled to vote cast their votes both direct for a presidential candidate and for an electoral college candidate.

  • In 1991 direct popular vote was introduced where voters cast their vote direct for a presidential candidate without voting for an intermediary elector, and the two rounds of the election procedure mean that a new election is held between the two candidates who received most votes in the first election if none of the candidates receives over 50 per cent of votes in the first election.

The main principles of holding elections

All elections in Finland are held according to the following principles:

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

  • 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. Universal franchise means that the right to vote only depends on requirements which citizens usually fulfil. Equal franchise means that every person entitled to vote has an equal right to influence the election results. 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.

Right to vote and voting register, voting and calculation of the election result
Right to vote

Every Finnish citizen is entitled to vote in Presidential elections provided the person has reached the age of 18 no later than on the day of the election of first round.

Voting register

The Population Register Centre compiles a computer register of everyone entitled to vote (voting register) 46 days before the election day. This register contains certain information on the voters (including the voters' name, identity code, constituency municipality of residence and polling station) as this information appears in the Population Information System 51 days before election day. The voting register was established on 7 December 2011 based on the information included in the Population Information System on 2 December 2011.

The voting register is publicly available at the local register offices (maistraatti) from 41 days before the election day onwards (i.e. from 2 December 2011). In addition, everyone in the register is sent a notice of his or her right to vote (card of information) not later than 24 days before the election day (29 December 2011). The card states among other things the election day, the days for advance voting, the address of the polling station of the recipient and the addresses and telephone numbers of the election authorities. The voting register is later used to print out electoral rolls for the polling stations on election day.

Claims for correction of the register have to be submitted to the local register offices not later than 16 days before the election day and the local register office will decide the claims not later than 13 days before election day.

The voting register becomes legally valid 12 days prior to the election day, that is, on Tuesday, 10 January 2012 at 12.


Persons with a right to vote can vote either 1) during advance voting, or 2) on the election Sunday. Advance voting is conducted in the first and second elections both in Finland and abroad. Each person entitled to vote can vote in advance in general advance polling stations in Finland and abroad at Finnish embassies. On the election day an enfranchised person may vote only in the polling station of his or her own voting district. A voter need not give grounds for advance voting, but may freely choose between voting in advance or voting on the election day. Advance voting commences on the 11th day (11 January 2012) and ends abroad on the 8th day (14 January 2012) and in Finland on the 5th day (17 January 2012) before the election day.

Counting of the election result

The election results are counted as in parliamentary elections, except that the d’Hondt method is not used. The votes of the candidates are counted, and the candidates are ranked in order of number of votes received. If the numbers are the same, the order is drawn by lot. After both elections the Electoral District Committee of Helsinki confirms the final number of votes received by the candidates in the entire country, and informs the Ministry of Justice of them.

If none of the candidates has received over one half of the votes cast, the Ministry of Justice declares that a second election between the two candidates who have received most votes will be held in two weeks. After the second election the Government establishes which candidate has received most votes and thus been elected President.

Eligibility and nomination of candidates

A Presidential candidate must be a native-born citizen of Finland.

Nomination of candidates

A presidential candidate may be nominated

  1. By registered parties from whose lists at least one representative was elected in the parliamentary elections preceding the presidential elections, and

  2. By constituency associations established by at least 20,000 people entitled to vote.

A political party or an association of eligible voters may nominate only one candidate. Each party chooses its candidate according to its own rules and regulations. Political parties and constituency associations may nominate the same candidate.

The candidates enter as candidates in the entire country. A party and constituency association must submit its candidate application to the Electoral District Committee of Helsinki not later than on Wednesday 7 December 2011 at 4 pm.

The Committee checks the applications and confirms the nomination of candidates on Thursday 15 December 2011 by compiling a list of candidates in which the candidates are enumerated in an order drawn by lot. The list contains the following information on the candidates: number (beginning with number 2), name, municipality of residence and title, profession or position. The list is displayed in the polling booths, for instance.

If the second election is held, the Electoral District Committee of Helsinki compiles a new list of candidates including both candidates in the second election with the same numbers they had in the first election.

Voting percentage = proportion of voters of persons entitled to vote

Statistics on general elections include four different voting percentages:

  1. The voting percentage of Finnish citizens resident in Finland.

  2. The voting percentage of Finnish citizens resident abroad.

  3. The total voting percentage which includes both of the above.

  4. A separate percentage for persons belonging to group 2 above and living in Sweden.

Valid and invalid ballots taken into account in the advance voting

As a rule, counting of advance votes starts at 3 pm on the actual election Sunday. The count may be brought forward in large electoral districts; the earliest possible starting time being 12 noon. The objective is to finish the counting of advance votes by 8 pm, from which time onwards preliminary data may be released.


The whole country is one single constituency in Presidential elections. Therefore, when counting the election results, seats are not allocated to different regions. All statistics do, however, present results also by constituency in order to maintain the comparability of different elections.

Changes in constituencies and municipalities and consolidations of municipalities

Changes in constituencies and municipalities and consolidations of municipalities concerning elections of different years are presented on the Internet in the Appendix table of the release (on the home page of the statistics on Presidential elections).

Municipalities are placed into constituencies according to the constituency division in force.

Classifications used

Statistics Finland's classification of municipalities, constituency, municipality, voting district, party (entered in the Party Register), age of candidates and elected, country of residence.

Candidates have been nominated in the Presidential elections 2012 by the following registered parties:
  • The Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) - Paavo Lipponen

  • Centre Party of Finland (KESK) - Paavo Väyrynen

  • National Coalition Party (KOK) - Sauli Niinistö

  • Swedish People's Party in Finland (RKP) - Eva Biaudet

  • Christian Democrats in Finland (KD) - Sari Essayah

  • Green League (VIHR) - Pekka Haavisto

  • Left Alliance (VAS) - Paavo Arhinmäki

  • True Finns (PS) - Timo Soini

Data collection methods and data sources

Statistics Finland receives basic election data from the Ministry of Justice’s election data system, the technical implementation of which is assigned to Tieto.

1.3 Acts, decrees and recommendations

The function of Statistics Finland is to compile statistics describing conditions in society (Statistics Finland Act of 24 January 1992/48). These also include election statistics. Statistics Finland’s Rules of Procedure define the Population Statistics department as the producer of election statistics (Statistics Finland’s Rules of Procedure, TK-00-1469-00).

2. Methodological description of survey

The statistics are based on census data. The basic data of the statistics are based on the Ministry of Justice's election information system consisting of six subsystems. They are:

  1. Basic data, including data on constituencies, municipalities, voting districts and election authorities;

  2. Data on polling stations (polling station register), which include data on general advance polling stations and polling stations on the election day;

  3. Franchise data (voting register), for which data on every person entitled to vote are collected by the Population Register Centre 46 days before the election day. This register contains certain information on the voters (including the voters' name, identity code, constituency, municipality of residence, and polling station) as this information appears in the Population Information System 51 days before the election day. The voting register becomes legally valid at noon 12 days prior to the election day;

  4. Data on candidates (candidate register) in which the following data on each candidate in the elections are entered: name, candidate number, profession, municipality of residence, party/voters' association that has nominated the candidate, and personal identity code;

  5. A centralised calculation system to which the electoral district committees and the central election committees submit their results of the elections;

  6. The statistics and information service system by means of which the results of the elections and other statistical data are transmitted to the media and to Statistics Finland.

Statistics Finland's election data system comprises two election data files: regional file and candidate file.

3. Correctness and accuracy of data

The basic data of the election statistics derive from the Ministry of Justice’s election data system and from data supplied by the election authorities, which can be considered reliable.

4. Timeliness and accuracy of data

The confirmed data always differ somewhat from the figures of the preliminary statistics.

The results change once the result is confirmed in all respects: by voting district, municipality, constituency, party and number of votes gained by all candidates and by the elected, whereby even their mutual order may change.

5. Accessibility and transparency/clarity of data

The statistics are released on the Internet, in the StatFin online service and on the statistics pages on presidential elections. Election result data by municipality and voting district and the numbers of votes gained by the candidates and elected are entered into the StatFin online service.

Releases and time series tables in addition to the tables concerning the elections in question are available in three languages (Finnish, Swedish and English) on the statistics pages on Presidential elections.

The chargeable ALTIKA regional database contains results on Presidential elections starting from 1994.

6. Comparability of statistics

The new statistical grouping of municipalities (urban, semi-urban and rural) was introduced starting from the year 2000. Prior to that, municipalities were grouped as follows: towns and other municipali-ties. Changes in constituencies and municipalities between elections have been taken into account in statistics which contain comparative data with the previous elections.

Election results are presented on the statistics pages on Presidential elections since 1925.

7. Coherence and consistency/uniformity and documentation

The Ministry of Justice publishes exhaustive information about different elections and the national candidate register and election result data on its web pages ( The statistics on advance voters published by the Ministry of Justice differ from Statistics Finland’s statistics on advance voters, because they are defined on different grounds:

  • The Ministry of Justice counts the number of advance voters from the number of those entitled to vote, whereas

  • Statistics Finland counts the number of advance voters from the number of all persons who voted.

The classifications used in the statistics can be found on Statistics Finland’s website.

Source: Presidential Elections 2012, second round, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Kimmo Moisio 09 1734 3239, Jaana Asikainen 09 1734 3506,

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma

Updated 10.2.2012

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Presidential elections [e-publication].
ISSN=2242-3699. confirmed election result, second round 2012, Presidential elections, quality description . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 12.6.2024].
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