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Saami Parliament in Finland to repeat elections

The Executive Board of the Saami Parliament in Finland recommended the election committee to be reappointed ahead of the 24 June repeat elections.

Saami Parliament in Finland (Source: Wikipedia).

On 12 April, the Saami Parliament in Finland reappointed the election committee of the 2023 elections to oversee the repeat elections. The repeat elections are scheduled to be held on 24 June 2024.

‘Time is short and the task is demanding, as the preparation for the election must start immediately. We are in a situation where the term of the Election Committee that organised the 2023 election ended on 31 December 2023’, President Näkkäläjärvi describes in the Saami Parliament’s press release. According to the Act on the Saami Parliament and the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court, repeat elections shall be carried out by the same Election Committee as in the repealed elections, if possible.

The members and deputies appointed to the Election Committee are: Aslak Pieski from Utsjoki (deputy Niilo-Heikki Aikio who replaces the previous deputy Ilmari Tapiola, as he was no longer available due to a personal reason); Kirsti Saijets (formerly Kustula) from the Inari Saami language group in Inari (deputy Marko Tervaniemi); Tauno Haltta from the Skolt Saami language group in Inari (deputy Helmi Haataja), Juha Magga from Enontekiö (deputy Juhan-Oula Näkkäläjärvi) and Petra Magga-Vars from Vuotso, Sodankylä (deputy Helena Mäcklin).

Supreme Court ruling

In early April, Fenno-Ugria reported that the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland annulled the 2023 Saami Parliament elections. The ruling followed the Saami Parliament’s election committee’s decision to remove 86 individuals from the election register in March 2023. The individuals were included on the list by the Supreme Administrative Court between 2021-2022. In the Court’s latest decision, 65 individuals must be included on the list once more.

At the same time, the Finnish Government prepared a proposal to amend the law on the Saami Parliament. The proposal was submitted to the Finnish Parliament in December 2023. The amendment was set to be discussed once the Finnish Parliament convenes and if accepted, the new law would have been effective from 1 July 2024. In early April, however, the constitutional law committee decided to put the procedure on hold until the Saami Parliament holds its repeat elections.

International reactions

In 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council and in 2022, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued condemnatory observations on Finland concerning the interpretation of the Act on the Saami Parliament and obliged Finland to review the Act in a manner that respects the rights of the Sámi to self-determination. The Act on the Saami Parliament was enacted in 1995 and it is outdated in many respects.

On 15 April at the 23rd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York, President Pirita Näkkäjärvi brought up the latest decision of the Supreme Adminstrative Court.

‘The view of the Saami Parliament in Finland is clear. These decisions constitute – again – a violation of the right to self-determination of the Saami in Finland and a violation of human rights. We urge the Finnish Parliament to finalise the amendment of the Saami Parliament Act as soon as possible to prevent similar human rights violations in the future’, Näkkäläjärvi said in her speech.