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I am afraid I am not providing a live blog in this second round of voting. It would have been a surprise of earthquake proportions for Pekka Haavisto to beat Sauli Niinistö, and that earthquake has not happened. Voting closed just over ten minutes ago at 20.00 Finnish time and the results of advanced voting and the first election day counts have come in. With around 53% of votes counted, Sauli Niinistö has 65,5% of votes and Pekka Haavisto has 34,5%.
Whilst Haavisto was never going to truly challenge Niinistö for victory, this has been a special turning point of an election. A Green reached the second round sending a powerful signal in a society still partially shaken by the success of True Finns in April 2011′s parliamentary polls, a Social Democrat will not be elected president for the first time in three decades. It’s also historic in that Niinistö will win with the greatest level of popular support since the president was chosen by direct voting.
Sauli Niinistö, of the moderate conservative National Coalition party, will be sworn in as President of the Republic on 1 March 2012. You can expect his first foreign visits, almost certainly to Sweden and then later to Estonia as per tradition, shortly afterwards.
The final margin of Niinistö’s victory will become clear when all the votes are counted, which should be at or just before 22.00. If you want to follow the full results, you can do so on the Justice Ministry’s website here: http://22.214.171.124/TP2012K2/e/tulos/lasktila.html (in English language)
Update 20.38 Yle, the public service broadcaster, has just announced its forecast for the final result: Niinistö 62,9%, Haavisto 37,1%. Not a bad result for Haavisto considering his background, party, and the popularity of his opponent.
Update 20.40 It is now impossible for Haavisto to win. Even if all the existing votes that are uncounted were for him, there simply wouldn’t be enough votes to bridge the gap between him and Niinistö. 81,7% of votes are now counted.
Update 20.55 Turnout in this election is low – only 69%, but with large variations in different regions. The Finnish-speaking countryside has the lowest turnouts. Weather has been bad and these areas strongly support the Centre party, and thus perhaps have little motivation to scrape the ice off of the car to go and vote in this contest.
Update 22.30 100% of votes have been counted. The final result is:
- Sauli Niinistö 1 802 400 votes, 62,6%
- Pekka Haavisto 1 076 957 votes, 37,4%
Yesterday, exactly two months to the day since the parliamentary election on 17 April, Finland’s government negotiations finally concluded. The moderate conservative Kokoomus party, the Social Democrats, Left Alliance, Greens, Swedish People’s Party, and Christian Democrats finally came to agreement on a government programme. The leader of Kokoomus, Jyrki Katainen, is now set to become Finland’s next Prime Minister.
The new government programme is marked by many compromises. It is a broad coalition of ideologically diverse parties that Katainen has been forced to sow together after the success of the True Finns, and their massive gain in seats, in April’s election.
The Swedish People’s Party (SFP) will get the positions of Defence Minister and Justice Minister. Party chairman Stefan Wallin will fill the defence portfolio, whilst the parliament member from Jakobstad and current chairman of Folktinget (the Swedish Assembly in Finland) Anna-Maja Henriksson will lead the Justice Ministry. She is also a lawyer by education. These are heavy-weight portfolios and give SFP more influence than in the last government. Defence will ensure that Wallin is able to protect the Swedish-speaking Nylands brigad when necessary defence budget cutbacks are announced. Justice also has a role in linguistic policy, in e.g. courts and administrative district reforms. Henriksson’s ministry will also be responsible for the shaping of the reforms of Åland’s autonomy, which is expected to be expanded during this government’s mandate.
SFP has also managed to ensure that much of the action plan of former President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Martti Ahtisaari on how Finland’s bilingual nature will be strengthened is included in the new government’s programme.
Naturally, the most important mission for the new government will be to balance the economy. This is going to mean cut-backs in many areas. It will be interesting to see if this does not lead to conflict between the individual parties as they try to limit the extent of these cut-backs to areas that particularly effect their electorate or the areas covered by their ministries. It could be a bumpy ride, in spite of yesterday’s agreement on a comprehensive government programme.
Pictured: Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP), Finland’s incoming Justice Minister
Government formation negotiations, Wednesday evening update
The Social Democrats and the Left Alliance have walked out of negotiations to form a new government, following 17 April’s parliamentary elections. According to Yle, the two parties could not agree with the others on economic policy matters. The moderate conservative Kokoomus party is leading discussions as the largest party. Kokoomus party chairman Jyki Katainen has said he will contact the Centre party already today to see if they are interested in joining negotiations with the remaining parties at the table, Katainen hopes now to form a non-socialist government comprising of his own Kokoomus, Centre, the Swedish People’s Party, and the Christian Democrats.
The Centre Party has previously made it very clear that it would sit in opposition during this parliament after it received a drubbing in the April elections. It remains to be seen as to whether Centre will do a U-turn and say yes to entering government (or at least the negotiations to form one).
Another risk is that the second place Social Democrats try to take the lead in forming a government. Some SDP voices have previously noted that they regretted that the True Finns were not going to sit in the coming government. SDP and True Finns share many similarities in economic policy, an area that will dominate this parliamentary term due to the global economic situation. It’s unlikely, but could the worst case scenario involve Timo Soini’s True Finns sitting in the next Finnish government after all?
23.52 100% of votes are counted in the election for Finland’s 200-seat parliament.
Kokoomus, the National Coalition party (moderate conservative) 20,4%, 44 seats
Social Democratic Party 19,1%, 42 seats
True Finns 19,0%, 39 seats
Centre 15,8%, 35 seats
Left Alliance 8,1%, 14 seats
Greens 7,2%, 10 seats
Swedish People’s Party 4,3%, 9 seats
Christian Democrats 4,0%, 6 seats
Other (Åland’s parliament member), 1 seat
Turnout was 70,4%.
- The big news of the night is that the True Finns have performed at the top end of expectations, winning over 19% of votes. A record-breaking 15 percent increase on their performance in the last election. Timo Soini’s populists will certainly be invited to government formation negotiations. Will they even be in government?
- The conservative National Coalition Kokoomus are the largest party in parliament for the first time in history. Party chair Jyrki Katainen is likely to be Finland’s new prime minister.
- The Social Democratic Party has come second. Will it enter government together with Kokoomus?
- The Centre Party have had a terrible election. The party of Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi have lost over seven percent of the electoral share compared to 2007.
- The Swedish People’s Party has had a good night. In an election with a high turnout, something that usually negatively effects SFP, the party has managed to retain all of its mandates. Apart from the True Finns, SFP is the only party not to have lost seats in parliament.
That is the end of this live blog, thank you for reading it. You can find full results in English from the Ministry of Justice’s results service here.
23.49 Counting in Nyland/Uusimaa electoral district is complete, the largest and last district to finalise counting. Timo Soini, chair of True Finns, beats Alexander Stubb (Kokoomus) by around 2000 votes to be the vote king in Nyland (and the entire country). SFP manages to hold onto its three mandates – the sitting SFP parliamentarians have been returned.
23.44 It looks like Astrid Thors will take SFP’s seat in Helsingfors/Helsinki. Interviewed on Yle, she says that the other government parties have acted wrongly in their lack of meeting populist immigration critics head-on. Thors has had to bear the brunt of much populist hatred due to her position as Migration Minister. She reminds us that there are 80% of the country who do not want to have the True Finns politics.
23.23 Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb tops Kokoomus’ candidates in Nyland/Uusimaa, beating his party chairman and leading candidate for Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.
23.19 Only 100 votes between Astrid Thors and Jörn Donner in the battle for SFP’s mandate in the capital city. Too close to call.
23.03 Is this the sixth or seventh election in a row that the Centre party has gone backwards in support asks Professor Göran Djupsund in Yle’s coverage.
22.59 Can the True Finns really sit in government together with Kokoomus? True Finns made a big issue of EU support to Portugal in their campaign. They were strongly against giving Finnish tax-payers money to another country that “had not taken care of its economy”. Kokoomus’ chairman, current Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen, has advocated Finnish support for the EU crisis package to member states in economic trouble. Can either party really make the U-turn required for them to be able to govern together?
22.55 A cartoon in Vasabladet shows an SFP ladybird (the party’s logo) thanking the True Finns and the Finnishness Association for the help in the election campaign. It seems that the strong anti-Swedish feeling that the True Finns have blown up has motivated Swedish-speakers to vote for SFP.
22.52 SFP’s chairman Stefan Wallin is addressing his party’s election night party. He notes that SFP, together with True Finns, is the only party to not have lost any seats in parliament. This is a good result for SFP. Turnout is higher than normal in the country as a whole, normally bad news for SFP. Swedish-speakers tend to be more active voters, but this advantage has been rubbed out in this poll – but SFP have still manage to hold all their seats.
22.44 Voting is finished in Vasa electoral district. SFP retains 4 seats. Centre big losers in this area. Lars-Erik Gästgivars is SFP’s new member of parliament in Vasa (Håkan Nordman is retiring from parliament).
22.40 The True Finns chairman Timo Soini has arrived to massive cheering at his party’s election party. He says they’ve made political history.
Timo Soini responds to a question on whether he will be in government by answering that he will be taking a sauna with Jyrki Katainen. He hopes to sit in government. Yle points out that this election has been bad for gender equality. The True Finns are a very male-dominated party and are taking around 40 seats.
22.13 Maria Wetterstand, joint leader of Sweden’s Green party, is being interviewed on Yle. She is married to Finnish Green MP Ville Niinistö. She says that she thinks Finland has handled the True Finns very badly. According to Wetterstand, the other parties should acted cowardly. Only the Greens and SFp have spoken clearly against True Finns, the others have adopted much of their immigrant-critical populist rhetoric.
22.08 Swedish People’s Party will almost certainly win four seats in the Vasa electoral district. Ulla-Maj Wideroos of SFP says that it can be so that the True Finns and SFP are the only victors in this election. She notes that the True Finns are very long from SFP’s values and that Timo Soini’s values don’t belong in her idea of what Finland is. If True Finns enter government, will this mean SFP will leave government after decades?
22.07 81% of the votes are now counted. Kokoomus in lead with 20%, True Finns 19,4%, SDP 19%, Centre 15,9%, Left Alliance 8,2%, Greens 7,2%, SFP 4,3%, Christian Democrats 4,1%, Pirate Party 0,5%, Others 1,5%
22.03 A quick flick of the channels from Finnish television to Swedish Television (SVT) for the start of the main evening news bulletin in our western neighbour. The populist True Finns success is the main story. Nearly 20% of the votes to True Finns. This is not a good day for Finland’s international reputation. The Swedish media is finding it hard to understand how the True Finns can do so well in a country with so few immigrants.
21.58 First time turnout has been above 70% since 1995. The True Finns have at least increased interest in the democratic process.
21.48 If the True Finns are this election’s big winners, the Centre party and the Greens must be the big losers. Where have Green voters turned to? Whilst it’s feasible that many Centre voters have turned to the True Finns, it seems unlikely that liberal Green party voters would choose Timo Soini’s party. Indeed, the Greens were the only party to say they would not govern together with the True Finns. Could they voters have turned to the SDP?
21.46 Åland is the first electoral district to complete its counting in full. Not surprising as it is the smallest and interest in voting in the election is low there. The sole member from Åland Elisabeth Nauclér has been reelected.
21.33 Yle’s analyst notes that should Kokoomus, True Finns and SDP (who are all predicted to gain almost the same number of seats in parliament) form a government they’d have a strong majority without needing any smaller parties. Questionable whether smaller parties such as the Greens and SFP would want to dirty their hands with governing alongside Timo Soini’s populists.
21.28 Finnish radio and tv Yle’s prognosis has just been released.
True Finns and Kokoomus tie for first place with 19,8 percent of the vote each! SDP in third with 18,5. Prime minister’s Centre party 16,4 percent and practically certain to be in opposition. Left Alliance 7,9, Greens 7,3, SFP 4,2, Christian Democrats 4,0. A MAJOR upset. In the past, Yle’s prediction have been very accurate. Let’s hope it is not this time. It looks like True Finns will be in government if this is true. A horrendous blow for Finland’s reputation.
21.19 Prime Minister Kiviniemi has just told television that Centre is likely to go into opposition. When asked if it would be her first choice to go into opposition so that the party could lick its wounds, she seemed to agree it would be the best course of action. Could we see a Kokoomus-SDP government?
21.07 Just now, it looks like the Swedish People’s Party (SFP) may win an extra seat – if this occurred SFP would be the only party other than the True Finns to go forward in this election.
21.06 Four large parties of almost the same size. A very unusual situation in politics when one thinks of other countries.
21.05 Caution on the results to date. Many, many advanced votes in the country’s biggest electoral district, Nyland/Uusimaa, are not even counted yet. Likely to be many votes for Kokoomus amongst these. They are strong in Nyland.
21.00 47% of votes counted. There’s only 0,4 % (!) between the four largest parties!
20.55 Situation just now (percent) Kokoomus (conservatives) 19,2, SDP 19,0, True Finns 18,7, Centre 18,5, Left Alliance 8,2, Greens 6,0, Christian Democrats 4,3, Swedish People’s Party 4,2
20.29 Europe and Migration Minister Astrid Thors is currently around 300 votes ahead of fellow SFP candidate Jörn Donner in Helsingfors/Helsinki electoral district. SFP in a terrible position in Vasa electoral district, as things are now, they’d lose 2 seats in Österbotten, but they may be many votes cast today yet to be counted.
20.17 True Finns leader Timo Soini is the current “vote king”, having the highest number of individual votes. The extreme right winger Jussi Hallo-aho is in 5th place, also a True Finn.
20.12 Centre party’s chair, prime minister Mari Kiviniemi has just told YLE’s Swedish-tv channel that if this is the final result, Centre will go into opposition! A slip of the tongue in a second language?
20.10 Finland’s likely next prime minister, Kokoomus leader Jyrki Katainen speaking to TV. You can see first results on the caption.
20.03 The Finnish people have voted, polling stations are closed. Advanced voting results come in. Looks like a disaster for the Centre party with 17,3%, down 5,8%. They usually do will in advanced voting. The True Finns have 18,6% of the vote in advanced voting, third place. As expected, Kokoomus are in the lead with 20.2%, but the SDP are close behind on 19,5%. SFP are behind slightly over 1 per cent on the last election, but Swedish-speakings generally vote on the election day, and those results will come in as they are counted. ALL parties, except the True Finns, are behind on the last election.
19.52 Whilst advanced voting results will come in at 20.00, after poll’s close, we will have to wait until around 21.00 for a firm idea of how the next parliament will look. At that time, the Finnish national broadcaster Yle will release its first election prognosis. This is usually a highly reliable guide to the final result.
19.45 Just fifteen minutes until polling stations close and those first results are announced. Voting is expected to have been high today. The weather was good and people are invigorated by what was an exciting campaign. Hopefully turn out will pass 70% this time. The last two elections have seen shamefully low turnouts: only 67,9% of the electorate voted in 2007. By way of comparison, almost 85% of Swedes voted in their latest parliamentary election in September.
19.01 The polls close in just under one hour. Counting of votes cast in advance has already started and the results of advanced voting will be released immediately after the polls close at 20.00. Some news reports earlier in the day suggested that it might not be possible to count them all in time as there are so many advanced votes to count. Over 30% of the electorate chose to vote in advance this year. Residents of rural municipalities are usually those that cast their vote in advance in greatest numbers, so expect the first results to put the Centre party in the lead. The Centre party, with its roots in the agrarian movement, has its strongholds in the more sparsely populated countryside. Swedish-speaking Finns often leave voting to the day itself, so expect a relatively poor showing for the Swedish People’s Party (SFP) amongst the first returns. The first results should show if the opinion polls are right on the True Finns – will they emerge with more than 15% of the vote?
18.50 Welcome to this live blog of Finland’s 2011 parliamentary election. I obviously can’t provide a comprehensive results service, but I’ll be providing some snippets of what’s happening as the results come in. Naturally, with a focus on Swedish-speaking Finland. All times are Finnish time, we’re three hours ahead of GMT – and one hour ahead of central Europe.
The Justice Ministry’s election results service can be found online here. It will be updated with the latest results as they come in from municipalities and electoral districts across the country.
The municipalities of Pernå, Strömfors (Ruotsinpyhtää) and Lijendal will merge with the town of Lovisa from 1 January 2010. The new enlarged Lovisa will have a population of ca 15 700 and a Swedish-speaking population of 44% (39% in the current Lovisa town). The merger means the loss of the last Swedish-speaking majority municipalities east of Helsinki (or east of Ingå to be more precise, which is now Finland’s most “eastern” Swedish-speaking majority municipality) and the last Swedish-speaking majority municipalities in Östra Nyland (Itä-Uusimaa); both Pernå and Lijendal have a majority of Swedish-speakers.
Voters in the new Lovisa voted already on Sunday for their new municipal council which will replace the four existing separate bodies. The new council will assemble for the first time in November. Svenska folkpartiet, the Swedish People’s Party (SFP), won the most votes and seats. SFP won 40,6% of the vote and will thus get 25 places. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 22,8% of the vote and 14 seats. The National Coalition Party Kokoomus/Samlingspartiet got a vote share of 14,1% equating to 8 places.
The populist right-wing True Finns, the Greens and the Centre Party will each have 3 seats in the new council receiving 5,8%, 5,3% and 5,1% of the vote respectively. The Left Alliance becomes a new face in the politics of the municipalities winning its first seat with 2,3% of votes. The ‘Non-Alligned in the New Lovisa’ and the Christian Democrats also both pick up one seat each with 2,1% and 1,6% respectively.
The municipal election in the new Lovisa marked the first electoral outing for the Finnish Pirate Party (see previous entry on the PP). They failed to find any sympathy amongst voters getting just 17 votes (0,2%) and no seats – the only party that stood not to win a place.
The main story of the night was the extremely slow processing and announcing of the results, despite a turnout of only 62,3%. The final preliminary result was not announced until gone half past eleven, over three and half hours after voting booths closed. Borgåbladet reports that several voices at the National Coalition party’s election night called the organisation of the vote count “a scandal” and that action must follow as a result of its poor handling. The Lovisa-based newspaper Östra Nyland reports that the vote reporting was so scandalously slow because the Central Elections Committee in Lovisa had only arranged for one computer and one person to manage the reporting of the votes.
Although SFP won the most votes and seats, it does not have an overall majority. Some voices in the local Social Democratic group have said that they would like to see all the other parties form a coalition to keep SFP out from power in the new Lovisa. However, the SDP is split on this matter and the Kokoomus’ local leader has already announced his preferred alliance would be with SFP and the Greens. It also seems highly unlikely that non-SFP parties, which cover a large spectrum of political views, could come to an agreement to keep SFP out. So, SFP is likely to have the strongest hand in the coming negotiations over how to structure the running of the new Lovisa.
The election results can be seen as a disappointment for the SDP and Kokoomus in comparison with their expectations. It has been a marginal success for the True Finns who received more votes than Centre. SFP’s share of the vote is roughly as expected, if not a very slight disappointment. SFP may have lost some votes in Liljendal and Pernå to parties that have not previously contested municipal elections in those municipalities. In other words, some voters had more choice than in the past.
Pictured: Town Hall on Lovisa’s main square, built in 1862.
The Swedish People’s Party has, against the predictions of many opinion polls, won a seat in the European Parliament. Carl Haglund, 30 years old and the current State Secretary for Culture Minister Stefan Wallin (SFP), topped the SFP vote and will take the party’s seat.
SFP won 6,1% of the national vote with over 101 000 votes, an increase of around 6 800 votes compared to 2004, an election in which the turnout was higher. SFP took the 13th seat of Finland’s 13 seats and came close to taking the 12th, in what must be considered a very good result for the party. The standing between SFP’s candidates was also close. The party ran 20 candidates with no designated main candidate. For the first time, Åland’s main candidate stood on the SFP list – a factor that was very much of help to SFP. SFP won almost 90% of the almost 10 000 votes cast on Åland.
The other established parties performed badly. The three biggest parties, Kokoomus (National Coaltion), Centre and the Social Democrats all lost one seat. The Left Alliance has fallen out of the EU parliament, losing its one seat. The Greens did well, winning an extra seat to take them to two MEPs.
The populist right-wing True Finns party, in a voting league with the Christian Democrats, saw party leader Timo Soini win the most personal votes of any candidate, 130 432.
Election results in full can be found on Yle’s website: http://yle.fi/val/resultat/2009/eu/index.html.
Pictured, SFP chairman Stefan Wallin and newly elected MEP Carl ‘Calle’ Haglund.
Greens in Sibbo (Sipoo) will fight this autumn’s municipal election as an independent association according to a report from Radio Vega Östnyland. Most Green activists in Sibbo have cut their link to the national party because of the Greens’ government ministers stance on the annexation of south west Sibbo by Helsinki. When the matter came up in the government, the Green’s ministers supported Helsinki’s forced take-over of an area of south west Sibbo. This was passed in government by a vote of 8-4. The annexation will occur on 1 January 2009. Previously, around 95% of Sibbo’s electorate had voted against the proposal in a referendum organised by the municipal council. The decisions by both the government and later the high court of administration in favour of Helsinki have been seen by many as an attack against municipal democracy and as a victory of the large over the small. In many letters to newspapers, the annexation has been likened to rape.
After the decision, the Greens lost many members in Sibbo who resigned in protest. The same fate also affected Kokoomus (who are the second largest party in Sibbo’s local council), whose government ministers also all supported Helsinki’s forced annexation. The Greens now face a tough municipal election in Sibbo, with 3 of their 4 councillors stating they will not stand for reelection.
Currently, the Swedish peoples party (Sfp) has 20 mandates in Sibbo. The national coalition party Kokoomus have 10. SDP hold 6, the Greens currently have 4 and Centre has 3 councillors.
The image is from one of the several protests against Helsinki’s forced annexation of south west Sibbo that occurred during 2007.
The Minister of Justice, Tuija Brax (green) has stated that she would support a sinking of the voting age (currently 18 ) to allow all those aged 16 years and above to vote. Minister Brax said she thinks this would increase the engagement of younger voters in political matters earlier. Members of other political parties, including some Swedish peoples’ party (Sfp) members and Left Alliance members have also stated this in the past.
Personally, I don’t have particularly strong feelings either in support or opposition to this. I suppose the arguments against a sinking of the voting age would be that younger people tend to be immature and thus could perhaps not be capable of making an informed decision on who to vote for – or that they haven’t grown up enough yet to sufficiently understand their own views. Personally, through having 2 children (and from more or less remembering being one myself!), I think such an attitude is rather pompous and underestimates many 16- and 17-year olds. Frankly, I think there’s probably a lot of people well over 18 who are still rather less mature then many 16- and 17-year olds; in other words, there are people who probably don’t make particularly informed choices long after they celebrate their 18th year.
The only really strong reason to keep things at 18 that I can think of is that 18 is the age of becoming an adult – it’s a marker point for many other things, whether it be drinking, smoking, driving etc. For simple reasons of being uniform and neat and tidy, keeping it at 18 is attractive. Also, you could argue that all the electorate ought to be 18 as they are in theory electing people who will make decisions on things like drinking, smoking, driving. You could, at a stretch, argue that people who are less than 18 shouldn’t be voting to influence decisions on things that the law doesn’t consider them mature enough to engage in yet.
We will see what happens. Certainly, anything that would engage younger people in the political process is worth investigating. As I’ve previously written, I have a lot of time for Tuija Brax. She comes across to me as a very capable member of our government and seems to have a good record in her decision making. Therefore, perhaps her instinct on this matter is also correct.
My respect for Justice Minister Tuija Brax (green) grows almost every time I read or hear about her. As reported earlier, she has previously demonstrated her understanding of the needs of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland.
Now Brax has addressed the matter of the Sami people in Finland. She was speaking at the Forum for Human Rights at the parliament yesterday where she said that she considered that the rights of the Sami have been handled poorly in Finland. The chairman of the Sami Assembly Pauliina Feodoroff thanked Brax for finally admitting, as a person in a high position, that the state had dealt with Sami questions inadequately.
Finland has been criticised for not signing up to a convention that recognises the Sami as indigenous people. Brax stated that this matter will be taken up during the present government period. She also stated the government will approve the Nordic Sami Agreement this year. The agreement would pave the way for annual joint meetings of the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian ministers responsible for Sami matters together with the chairmen of all 3 countries’ Sami assemblies. The agreement also make a proposal for minimum standards of rights in connection to the Sami language, culture and society.
According to the Central Statistics Office, 1 777 persons have declared Sami as their mother tongue in the population registry (as of 31.12.2007). The number of Sami is likely to be higher than this however as you can freely choose which language (Finnish/Swedish/Sami) you register as your contact language with the authorities. Wikipedia states that there are around 6 000 Sami in Finland.
The image is the Sami flag, adopted in 1986.