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Women in elections

​Women in elections

​Women as voters

The statistics main office began to collect statistical data from the parliamentary elections immediately after the first election, held in 1907. As a result of the insufficient orders and the central election committees' inexperience in their responsibilities, the statistics were imperfectly combined. As a result, no statistical data on women using their right to vote is available from the first parliamentary election. The gender distribution is also lacking. The turnout percentage was 70.7%.

Prior to Finland's independence, the Emperor ordered an extraordinary parliamentary election almost annually. The frequency of the parliamentary elections decreased the eagerness to vote. Voting turnout was at an all-time low in 1913. The Parliament was considered powerless and easily replaced. Women's voting turnout also hit a trough in 1913, with only 46.7% of women using their right to vote.

The change is substantial in comparison with the voting behaviour of the election organised in October 1917. Voter enthusiasm was higher due to the weakening of Russia’s grasp on Finland, particularly because the Power Act had granted Parliament the highest decision-making power in July 1917, while foreign policy and military matters were left to the Russian government. The winds of freedom were blowing.

In the first Parliamentary election of independent Finland, in 1919, the total voter turnout stood at 67.1%; being 65.1% for women and 69.5% for men. In-between the two world wars, the voter enthusiasm between men and women evened out slightly.

The election in 1945 was a starting point for a long period of active voter turnout. Factors increasing the activity included the general atmosphere after the war, the tensions in domestic affairs, the grown number of voting districts and the spreading of the mass communication. It has been estimated that the record-high voter turnout of the 1962 election was influenced by factors such as the Note Crisis. Women's voting activity continued to grow. Since the 1987 election, women's voter enthusiasm has exceeded that of men's.

Voter turnout in Parliamentary elections, 1908–2015

Figure 1. Voter turnout in Parliamentary elections, 1908–2015, %. Citizens residing in Finland. Detailed number data in the Appendix

Women as candidates

In 1907–1954, the list voting system was applied in Finland. A voter would not vote for an individual candidate, but the party instead. Before the election, the party had placed its candidates on the list in a certain order based on its own member vote or similar. When counting the votes, the candidates were elected in the order they were placed on the list.

Since 1955, the current system of a combined individual and party voting elections system has been used. The voter casts a vote for one candidate and, as the candidate usually stands for a party, the vote is allocated to the party, too.

The Statistical Office did not record the number of female candidates in the 1907–1919. In the 1922–1936 elections, the female number of candidates reached the highest rate, at 8.3%, in 1927. The low count of female candidates was constantly highlighted in elections statistics, because there were more eligible female than male voters. In the 1936 election there were 1,072 eligible women voters per 1,000 male voters.

Before the World Wars, it was the practice not to nominate several female candidates in order to have at least one woman elected. On the other hand, there was a shortage of female candidates ‑ a woman's place was still at home. However, it was almost the norm to have at least one female candidate for each electoral district.

After the wars, the percentage of women in candidates started to grow. Still, to this day, the proportion of women candidates does not correspond with the share of women among eligible voters. In the 2015 parliamentary election, women made up 39.4 per cent of the candidates, even though 51.5 per cent of eligible voters are women.

Proportion of female candidates

Figure 2. Proportion of female candidates, %
Data from 1939, 1945 and 1948 unavailable. Detailed number data in the Appendix

The proportion of votes cast for women has been recorded in the 1954–2007 elections. However, as early as 1927 the Election statistics concludes, on the basis of observing the number of female Members of Parliaments: "The female voters, despite a majority by numbers, has in rather scarce numbers taken advantage of the opportunity, as laid down in the Elections Act, to choose a representative of the same sex."

In the moment of voting, the vote is always cast to a male or female candidate. It is more common to vote one's own sex among men than it is among women. According to studies (e.g. Holli & Wass, 2010), women vote for women increasingly often. In the 1970 election, 40 per cent of female voters gave their vote to women; in the 2007 election, the figure stood at 52 %.

No similar study has yet been completed of the 2011 and 2015 elections.


 
A poster from the 1930s. National Archives of Finland.