Tuomas Pöysti sees risks for the elections even in the current epidemic situation, the Ministry of Justice does not yet have a contingency plan for the transfer.
Attorney general Tuomas Pöysti tells STT that the timing and possible postponement of the municipal elections will have to be carefully considered later this month, as decisions should be made in time.
Pöysti emphasizes that he himself is prepared to take a position on the matter only if and when the proposal to postpone the elections comes to be decided by the Government. The issue must first be discussed between the Ministry of Justice and the parliamentary parties.
At the level of principle, Pöysti sees that there may be grounds for postponing the election.
– After all, elections must be fair and, in accordance with the law, allow those entitled to vote to vote as widely as possible. That is a basic principle. Another basic principle is that the postponement of elections is an extremely exceptional measure in a democracy that must be taken only on very serious grounds. These are the two principles that are in the horizontal cup, Pöysti tells STT.
He notes that there are always individual or local illnesses during the election for which nothing can be done.
– But of course, if it is the case, as there may be now, that a significant number of those entitled to vote will not be able to exercise their right to vote, or at least will not be able to exercise it safely, then of course the balance will start to move seriously.
“It would be good for the election administration to resolve the situation soon”
Pöysti says that with today’s epidemic data, he would not yet dare to present anything without consulting epidemic experts, but a long-term perspective needs to be built on the situation.
– Yes, the basic level of the epidemic is now so high in several provinces that the situation can also be bad from the election point of view, Pöysti says.
Earlier this month, officials at the Ministry of Justice proposed a postponement of the election to the party secretaries, but the parties rejected the idea.
Pöysti says he is prepared for the fact that the reflection will have to go through in the light of the disease situation soon.
– As soon as possible, before March, the outlook for what this situation now looks like should be updated and the extent to which predictions of the development of the disease can be made.
According to Pöyst, this is not absolutely the last time to present a postponement of the election, but in principle it will be possible by law to make a quick adjustment if the situation deteriorates unexpectedly.
– But, of course, it would be good election administration to resolve that situation as soon as possible. It is not good to leave it to the last technically possible days.
Pöysti says that the scenario forecasts for the corona have in themselves been quite correct and the situation is not good even now.
– If there is no turn for the better here, then these risks are significant.
There is no contingency plan for the transfer – “will be created quickly if necessary”
Electoral director Arto Jääskeläinen the Ministry of Justice says preparations for the elections will continue as normal and the goal is to hold them on April 18th. However, he said, the situation is being monitored all the time.
According to Jääskeläinen, the difficult question is when the postponement of the election would still be possible, because there are still bad times left, and the closer we go, the worse the time will be.
– Good times no longer exist, so if a transfer decision had to be made, it would be a compulsion. In an emergency, such a decision can be made even during election week, Jääskeläinen tells STT.
According to him, there is no actual contingency plan for it, if the elections still have to be postponed.
– No, but something like that quickly arises if necessary, if there is a need. After all, the most important thing would probably be to draft a law on transfer. And if necessary, it is created quickly, Jääskeläinen says.
Solutions to the situation of those in isolation are still being sought
With regard to groups of voters in a difficult position, there has been, among other things, the letter voting that was used for those living and residing abroad in the last parliamentary elections.
According to Pöyst, it is practically too late. The Council of Europe recommends that the broader rules of the game should be known at least one year before the elections.
In Finland, the issue was on the agenda in the Sote reform attempt of the last election period, when the Deputy Chancellor of Justice took the position that six months is the very last deadline for significant regulations.
According to Jääskeläinen, the Ministry is still considering solutions to the situation of these groups of voters. The issue of persons assigned to isolation is particularly difficult.
– We are still trying to find solutions to it, but the discussions are still so unstructured that I cannot say even more about the options.
BTI information: The transfer proposal surprised the party secretaries
According to BTI, in the second week the transfer proposal came as a complete surprise to the party secretaries and no exact plan was presented.
It was only on Friday of the previous week that election director Jääskeläinen had said that the transfer was not on display.
The following Thursday, the party secretaries received an invitation to a meeting the same evening at which the transfer was presented. For example, when the elections would be postponed was not even discussed after the party secretaries rejected the idea.
The Jääskeläinen of the Ministry of Justice tells BTI that there has been no in-depth discussion about the timing.
– I myself have said before, that at least six months should pass, if it leads to.
According to him, there is still the question of conciliation, at what time the election might be postponed.
– It would be quite a dramatic move to postpone the elections, and my view is that it is not worth postponing them for a very short time. It would be worth looking at a time when elections can be conducted under better conditions.
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