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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.
Svenskfinland in English has been taking a little (okay, long) break of late. I have simply had too much to do with work and, if I am honest, I lost the urge to blog. But had I been blogging away as usual during the last six months or so, I fear that this blog would not have made happy reading.
The language climate in Finland is becoming ever less tolerant and the position of Swedish risks being so seriously maligned that a future in which it is possible to access public services in one’s mother tongue seems ever more bleak.
Amongst things that have happened in the last few months include the ongoing saga of the orientation of the city of Karleby (Kokkola) in Österbotten. Despite various bodies stating that for linguistic reasons it should be included in the Österbotten region with its state services located in Vasa, the Centre party (led by very vocal support from new Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi) continues to call for its incorporation into the district led by the unilingual Finnish-speaking city of Oulu/Uleåborg. The question seems to have become a matter of stubbornness amongst Centre party members who do not want to back-down even in the face of the Constitution which would seem to make any northern orientation illegal because of the linguistic consequences.
Maternity services at Ekenäs hospital in Western Nyland have closed down despite massive protests by local inhabitants and many, mainly Swedish-speaking, politicians. The municipality of Raseborg, where the hospital is located, has a majority of Swedish-speaking Finns and the hospital was the last in a Swedish-speaking majority area in southern Finland to offer maternity services. Residents of Raseborg will now be forced to travel to hospital in Lojo or Esbo to give birth, where Swedish-speaking service is often hard to obtain. Ludicrously, some Finnish-speaking members of the hospital board covering much of southern Finland suggested that Raseborg residents could travel to Borgå hospital if they wanted to be sure of Swedish service when they give birth – a journey of 153 km taking around 2 hours by car – hardly feasible for a mother entering labour!
The debate surrounding Swedish-language instruction in Finnish-speaking schools heated up during the last six months with debate on its future even making the main headlines in the Finnish-language media. The debate – even in the mainstream media outlets such as Yleisradio and Helsingin Sanomat - continues to use the pejorative term pakkoruotsi to describe the teaching of Swedish, meaning roughly ‘forced/compulsory Swedish’ – strangely one never hears of ‘forced mathematics’ or ‘forced biology’ classes. The debate gained prominence largely because the National Coalition Kokoomus party’s congress voted against the party leadership’s direction on a measure calling for the abandonment of Swedish as a compulsory school subject for Finnish-speakers. The Confederation of Finnish Industry (EK) also called for its abolishment. According to EK, schools ought to offer a broader range of languages instead of compulsory Swedish. This seems to suggest that the teaching of Swedish is an impediment to the learning of other languages, which is of course very strange logic indeed. Learning Swedish is naturally of no hindrance to also learning Russian, German, French, Chinese or any other language. Finland’s bilingualism ought to be a plus for Finnish industry’s competitiveness, especially when Finland is a Nordic country. EK’s reasoning was dealt a further blow when a survey showed that 80% of companies in the finance sector regarded the knowledge of Swedish as a decisive factor when choosing how to employ.
In a move that has the potential to cause the loss of life, reports of a 112 emergency call centre failing to be able to speak Swedish to a unilingual Swedish-speaking caller from Sibbo have again been in the media in recent weeks. Fortunately, the call was not concerning a life-threatening medical condition and the caller was eventually able to pass her phone to a neighbour who spoke good Finnish – but the example shows that authorities are not living up to their legal obligations in even the most serious areas of service-provision. What would have happened if it was a serious condition and an ambulance was not dispatched in time to save a life? Emergency messages to the public that are broadcast on television screens as text have also failed to appear in Swedish in two incidents recently, once concerning a severe fire in the largely Swedish-speaking town of Hangö.
In film-related news, Swedish subtitles have also been missing from many cinema film showings of late with cinema films blaming it on digitalisation. Apparently modern technology means that it’s not possible to do what was quite achievable before – namely to show subtitles in two languages at the same time. A debate has also blown up in the Swedish-speaking press surrounding the new Moomintroll film. The film will premier in Finnish and English with the Swedish-language version to follow only a few weeks later. Given that the Moomintrolls are probably the most famous Swedish-speaking Finns, concern has been raised that this is a sign of ever increasing Finnish-language cultural imperialism in Finland. An attempt to deny that the Swedish language is part of Finland’s culture – even with the now world-famous Moomintrolls, a Swedish-speaking creation.
It is not all bad news, the increasing indifference and lack of understanding for Swedish has raised concern even amongst prominent Finnish-speaking politicians. Elder statesmen Martti Ahtisaari (former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner) and Paavo Lipponen (former Prime Minister) have spoken in favour of Swedish. President Tarja Halonen has also expressed her concern for recent developments.
Pictured: Protesters against the closure of the maternity ward in Ekenäs on the steps of Parliament in Helsingfors/Helsinki.
The twist over whether the town of Karleby (Kokkola) will align itself with Uleåborg (Oulu) and Lappland as part of the future regional administration reforms continues. The Centre party dominated provincial council of Mellersta Österbotten (Central Österbotten), of which Karleby is the biggest municipality, has voted to align the entire province northwards. The majority of politicians in the town of Karleby itself (although not Centre) are of the opinion that Karleby should be a part of the Vasa region. This issue is of particular importance to Swedish-speakers in Karleby who would have little chance of obtaining high quality services in Swedish from an administration based in the unilingual Finnish-speaking north.
The Centre Party’s dogged insistence that Karleby’s future lies northwards again shows their complete disinterest (and even hostility) towards safeguarding the legal rights of Swedish-speaking Finns. It again shows their lack of respect for municipal democracy, as we’ve seen before in the case of strongly bilingual Sibbo (where Centre supported the annexation of a significant portion of that municipality by Helsinki against the Sibbo residents’ wishes). Now it seems that Centre cares so little for the interests of Swedish-speaking Finns, even their own party’s Swedish-speaking district has appealed to ministers of rival parties to ensure that when the cabinet take their decision on Karleby’s future, they choose the southern option. According to a report on Radio Vega, the Swedish-speaking Centre district has appealed to the National Coalition party (Kokoomus) minister Jyri Häkämies (who sits on the ministerial working group that handles regional administration matters) side-stepping their own Centre minister Mari Kiviniemi who is the actual lead on this issue as Municipality and Regions minister. Quite extraordinary.
With this in mind, one has to ask what the point of a Swedish-speaking Centre district if it can’t achieve even influence within its own mother party. This seems to prove the thesis that it has only been set up in order to try and win votes for the Centre party from a new sector of the population, rather than to actually represent Swedish-speaking Finns in politics. One must wonder when the Swedish-speaking district’s chairman, the controversial Peter Albäck, will realise this; that he and his district’s members are being used by the Centre party.
The ministerial working group handling Mellersta Österbotten and Karleby’s future, and that of around 13 000 Swedish-speaking Finns in the region, will meet tomorrow.
Today is the voting day for municipal elections. Polls are open until 20.00. If you haven’t voted in advance, this is your chance to have your say – but you’ll need to do it at the specific voting station named on your voting card. Results will come out from 20.00. It will be interesting to see if the Centre party’s performance will be poor. The Social Democrats are also going to their first election since their new leader Jutta Urpilainen took office in the summer; what reaction will the party-base make if, as tipped, they also perform badly? According to opinion polls, it’s the National Coalition Kokoomus party who should be looking forward to making the best progress.
In Swedish-speaking Finland, will the Swedish Peoples’ Party SFP manage to hold its ground; in the south, it’s faced with the challenge of demographics: as more Finnish speakers arrive, the proportion of Swedish speakers (and thus likely SFP voters) falls. How will they do in the newly merged municipalities, such as Svenskfinland’s soon to be largest town Raseborg which for the first time will go to the polls united in preparation for the 1 January merger. Will the new Swedish-speaking district of the Centre party led by the highly controversial Peter Albäck succeed in gaining ground anywhere outside his own home municipality of Kronoby? And, will the right-wing populist anti-Swedish True Finns party perform well enough to end up with a higher share of the national vote than the SFP and thus risk taking the only Swedish-speaking seat on the board of the National Association of Municipalities?
More analysis to follow after the results are known!
And, yes, Svenskfinland in English is back in business after a quiet patch (due to generally high work levels and also a 2 week holiday in the sun). Apologies if you’ve e-mailed lately and I haven’t got back to you – I shall do so soon.
Image: Ministry of Justice. Election results for all municipalities will be published as they come in on the Justice Ministry’s elections website.
The old phrase seems to be still accurate. Karleby’s future as part of Österbotten seems to have been put into doubt by the Centre party.
The city of Karleby (Kokkola), for centuries an intrinsic part of the Swedish-speaking part of Finland, has voted to cooperate in a northerly direction with the Oulu region in the future. The alternative southern direction towards Jakobstad and Vasa was defeated.
The vote went on the smallest possible margin, 6 to 5. The representatives of the Social Democrats, Left Alliance, Christian Democrats and Swedish People’s Party all voted for an orientation southwards.
All 5 Centre party delegates voted for a northern orientation. They were joined somewhat last minute by the single National coalition party – Kokoomus representative (ironically, another party that has made recent noises that it wants to ‘represent’ also Swedish-speakers). This will mean it will likely be practically impossible for Swedish-speakers in Karleby to receive services in Swedish from national authorities covering the Oulu region – which lacks any other municipality with Swedish as an official language. It also breaks the historical links Karleby has always had with the rest of Österbotten.
This orientation makes a mockery of the claims by the recently founded Swedish-speaking district of the Centre party that Centre is interested in representing the interests of Swedish speakers in Finland. It underlines the real reality; they are happy to get Swedish-speaking votes but rather less willing to do anything for Swedish-speaking voters.
Centre Party / Kronoby
The chairman of the Swedish-speaking district of Finland’s largest political party, Centre party, Peter Albäck has admitted creating a false profile on the popular Österbotten blogsite Bloggen.fi according to a report from Österbottens Tidning.
Albäck, whose blog is a considerable talking point in local politics in northern Österbotten, created a profile called ‘Mirakelmannen’ (The Miracle Man), supposedly a 27-year-old bilingual law student from Vasa. He then used it to post positive comments to entries on his own blog – particularly those critical to the Swedish Peoples’ Party (Sfp), which is the dominant force in local politics in the largely Swedish-speaking districts of Österbotten. Albäck is hoping to lead the recently formed Swedish Centre Party district to success in Swedish-speaking Finland, where the Centre party has not been a force in the past. To do so, he will need to win votes from Sfp. Albäck´s own blog on the Bloggen.fi website is used by him to pursue his throughts on politics and more often post articles that are heavily critical of SFP. He often makes very harsh reponses to anyone that does not share his ideas, regularly making personal attacks on his opponents. This has, however, made his blog a popular page on the internet – it is, it’s fair to say, far from a dull and dry read!
The bloggen.fi system allows blog-owners to see the IP-numbers of commentators. Albäck’s false identity was revealed when Albäck and ‘Mirakelmannen’ posted remarks on the blogs of other bloggen.fi users with the same IP-number. Although it is technically possible for 2 users to have the same IP-numbers, in one of the comments made under the ‘Mirakelmannen’ fake tag, the Kronoby politician wrote he was in the US where clearly it’s even less likely that another user would have the same Finnish IP-number as that of Albäck’s internet connection.
Just one and a half hours after this revelation by another Bloggen.fi user on their blog, ‘Mirakelmannen’ had deleted his blog entries and left a message stating ´Young and disappointed. Now you can find me on Suomi24 [a popular Finnish-language web portal and discussion forum] where there is nobody from SFP´.
According to the newspaper Österbottens Tidning (ÖT), Peter Albäck made telephone contact with them late this afternoon. ÖT’s reporter asked ´What comments do you have on the allegations that the computers of you and Mirakelmannen both have the same IP-number?´
Albäck responded, ´I have set a trap for them. This is a scandal. If you write something about this, then you are involved too. This is an unbelievable smear campaign that is going on against me´.
The paper reports that Albäck then went on to speak about a conspiracy against him and admitted that Mirakelmannen was an invention. The paper asked him of whom.
´We are several´, Centre’s district chairman replied.
When asked who these were, the politician acused ÖT’s reporter of working for the Swedish People’s Party. He then asserted that apart from 3 (users called) ‘X’, the SFP parliament member Ulla-Maj Wideroos is also involved in the internet plot against him,
´Mirakelmannen has, like a miracle, proved who is behind the plot against me´ said Albäck, according to ÖT’s report.
After these events, it’s hard not to call into question the trustworthyness of the Centre party’s district leader. Not only has he created a fake identity, if ÖT’s quotes are accurate, he has effectively attempted to stifle the freedom of the press. It will remain to be seen what reaction central Centre Party headquarters has on this matter. It would seem strange if they find this sort of behaviour acceptable. It’s also hard not to see how this scandal can not harm the Centre party’s chances of making a breakthrough with Swedish speaking voters in this October’s municipal election. Surely party chiefs in Helsinki will, at least, be embarrased by behaviour like this by a senior party official. Or perhaps it will get missed, as they don’t read Swedish-language papers. Watch this space… the municipal election in Kronoby municipality promises to be particularly tense and exciting!
For those that read Swedish, you can find Peter Albäck’s blog here: http://www.bloggen.fi/riksdagskandidater. The blog of so-called Mirakelmannen can be found at http://www.bloggen.fi/mirakelmannen. Österbottens Tidning’s article on this matter is located here: http://www.ot.fi/story.aspx?storyID=25144
Support for the Social Democrats is at the lowest for several years, according to the Finnish broadcasting corporation Yle’s July opinion poll.
Only 20,4 per cent of voters would vote for the SDP if there were a parliamentary election today. This is 2 per cent points lower than in May’s opinion poll – before the SDP elected their new leader, Jutta Urpilainen. This is bad news for the SDP who would clearly have been hoping that a new leader would have bought new momentum to the party and made it look a fresh prospect for voters. That no such favourable bounce has occurred will be worrying for the party, most particularly for Urpilainen, who faces her first major test as party chairman in October’s municipal elections. In the last municipal elections of 2004, the SDP received over 24 per cent of the votes.
Both of the largest government parties, Centre and Kokoomus (National coalition party) enjoy equal popularity; both would receive 22 per cent support of the voters according to Yle’s poll.
Worryingly, the right-wing party ‘True Finns’ again put in a good showing, with 5,9 per cent of voters asked saying that they would vote for them. This could be helped by those wishing to register a protest vote after the electoral financing scandal surrounding all the main parties. For the other parties, changes were small and not significant statistically.
Municipal elections throughout mainland Finland take place on 26 October.
Pictured is SDP chairman Jutta Urpilainen.
I have neglected this blog during the past week. Mainly because I’ve been busy at the office and that the weather has been so good; my free time has been occupied by putting it to good use. A lot is also on the go in Finnish current affairs. Here’s a quick summary of some of the ‘high’lights of the recent days.
Party funding scandal, Vanhanen’s Centre party in the spotlight
Parliamentarians, but most especially the government and more especially the Centre Party, are in turmoil due to campaign financing scandals. There’s so much to say on this that I can’t possibly manage it in this brief entry. And a new revelation seems to come out every day. Most of the worst news is, as said, surrounding the Centre party and financial grants given by a mysterious organisation called Kehittyvien Maakuntien Suomi (KMS, very liberally translated to “Finnish association for districts under development”) backed by various financiers – mainly businessmen (It should be said that KMS also gave grants to a much more limited number of members of other parties than Centre). There are various stories going about – was KMS founded in the office of the Centre party secretary Jarmo Korhonen? How much did prime minister Matti Vanhanen (centre) know about it? Did KMS money influence decisions made by the politicians who received it? Why is so much secrecy involved? Was it Centre party officials managing KMS’ bank account?
Frankly, it’s exhausting keeping up with it all! But in any case, Prime Minister Vanhanen is looking weakened and this morning’s Borgåbladet even reports that one betting company (Unibet) now thinks there’s a higher chance he will have resigned before the end of June than still be in the job on 1 July. As for now, he’s flown off to do a tour of Asia (where he amongst other things gave a strange speech in Seoul where he drawed upon the similarities of the Finnish and Korean languages). One amusing reader comment on the website of Vasabladet suggested that it might be best if he didn’t fly back. The bad news is that all Finnish politicians are looking less trustworthy amongst the electorate because of this scandal. It’s not good for encouraging the people’s participation in the democratic process when that process looks corrupt and broken. Expect new election financing laws already before the autumn as politicians try to regain the people’s trust.
Jutta Urpilainen is new Social Democrat leader
The Social Democrats elected a new party chairman yesterday at their conference in Hämeenlinna/Tavestehus. Jutta Urpilainen from Karleby in Österbotten becomes the SDP’s first female leader. In the second round of the party’s election, SDP delegates gave Urpilainen 218 votes, defeating former foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja who got 132 (both pictured). The choice of a youthful female leader (Urpilainen was born in 1975) will make it easier for SDP to change its image and present itself as a fresh alternative. Municipal elections are coming up this autumn and with Centre and Kokoomus faring worse (or at least getting worse publicity) in the above mentioned financial scandals, SDP should be looking to a good result. If the economic situation becomes more unstable – even more so.
Sfp party day in Åbo
The Swedish Peoples Party (SFP) holds its annual conference – the ‘party day’ – today in Åbo (Turku), in the shadow of the financing scandal (and indeed SDP’s leadership election). Sfp politicians and delegates will be hoping that they can avoid being tarred with the scandal brush in so much as is possible. KMS only gave money to one Sfp member during the last election campaign. That was party leader Stefan Wallin, who received 10 000 euro. However, he has said this he passed this on to Sfp’s general campaign fund for his Åboland constituency. Sfp has had its own mini-KMS type scandal. It was revealed recently that an almost equally mysterious organisation, Stiftelsen för ett tvåspråkigt Finland (‘The Foundation for a Bilingual Finland’) provides a large amount of Sfp’s monetary resources. This foundation sourced its money from business leaders and Svenska kulturfonden (The Swedish Cultural Fund). This has been met with far, far less negative publicity than the KMS/Centre affair, largely because it was no great surprise to anyone that Svenska kulturfonden was providing money to Sfp. It was, if you like, a “well known secret.” When this came to light, Sfp party secretary Ulla Achrén immediately took responsibility for how these funds were shared out within Sfp and to members seeking election. This rather took the heat out of any possible scandal – particularly as her ‘trust’ is harder to call into question, as she is (unlike most other party secretaries in other Finnish political parties) is simply an employee of Sfp – rather than the holder of an elected office.
One of the main issues for this year’s conference will be energy – and in particular nuclear power. The party has indicated, in the context of climate change, that it wants to relook at its negative stance towards the building of further nuclear power stations in Finland. Members are however divided, so a lively debate can be expected.
Sfp will look to recent opinion surveys for a source of optimism; Hufvudstadsbladet reports that they have shown that support for Sfp has significantly strengthened amongst Swedish-speaking young people. It also shows that support from the wider Swedish-speaking population has improved slightly (to over 67%), at the expense of the SDP and Greens.
Because I know how much you all like gossip (but of course, would never admit to) – and because I don’t have much time at the moment to write something more intellectual (or at least lenghier!), here’s a picture of Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (centre) together with his girlfriend Sirkka Mertala from yesterday evening. They are seen being received by the President of the Republic Tarja Halonen at the annual dinner for foreign diplomats at the president’s palace in Helsinki. It’s the first time they’ve appeared together in public since the Emma Gala (music awards) at the beginning of March.
To bring a glimmer of credibility to this posting, Hufvudstadsbladet reports that President Halonen used her dinner speech to speak on the topic of climate change, international development funding and Finland’s role in the international community. She emphasised the effect of climate change on the lives of women in poor developing countries.
Picture: Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari via Hufvudstadsbladet’s website