You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Centre’ tag.
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.
Elections to the EU parliament are underway with polling stations in Finland open until 20.00 this evening. The official result, however, will not be known until 22.00, as according to regulations, member states must wait until all polling accross the EU is over.
It remains to be seen as to whether SFP, the Swedish People’s Party, will manage to hang on to a seat in Brussels. Finland’s total number of MEPs has fallen one from 14 to 13, making it a tighter race. Opinion polls in the run up to election day gave mixed readings. However, opinion polls do generally underestimate SFP support as they most often conducted only in Finnish. Additionally, Swedish-speaking Finns tend to be more active voters in the real election, something that is not taken into account in opinion polls. In SFP’s favour in this EU election is that for the first time the most popular candidate on Åland (Britt Lundberg, a member of Åland’s Centre Party) is standing on SFP’s list. The votes of the Ålanders could be the critical factor in returning an SFP MEP. Another factor in SFP’s favour is that foreign minister Alexander Stubb (Kokoomus, National Coaltion party) was a candidate in the last EU election – it’s likely he won considerable numbers of Swedish-speakers’ votes, especially in the Helsinki area. They will now be looking for someone else to vote for. Should SFP succeed, it seems likely to be Carl Haglund (state secretary for Stefan Wallin) or Björn Månsson (until recently leader writer at Hufvudstadsbladet) who will take the seat. One thing is for sure, the only way to ensure one’s vote goes towards electing a Swedish-speaker is to vote for SFP.
Another interesting result will be to see how well Timo Soini and his True Finns do. It is not unthinkable that Soini could win the most personal votes in the country. This must be of considerable embarrasment to supporters of the Christian Democrats who are in a voting alliance for this election with the True Finns. Christian Democrat voters may well have stayed home in the realisation that a vote for a Christian Democrat will help the borderline racist True Finns. A somewhat unholy alliance.
Pictured: SFP’s EU parliament candidates
Svenska Yle is reporting that the four government parties (Centre, National Coalition, SFP and the Greens) have agreed to propose introducing a law that would make it necessary for political parties to win at least 3% of the vote in a parliamentary election in order to gain representation. Originally, a 3,5% minimum was proposed. SFP had strongly opposed this.
This move is a backwards step for democracy. Had it existed at the time, it is unlikely that smaller, more recent arrivals to parliament, such as the Greens and the True Finns would have made it in to the parliament. Regardless what one thinks of the True Finns, this would have been anti-democratic. It is particularly surprising perhaps that the Greens, now in government, support this regulation.
What this 3% minimum will do is to make it much harder for small parties to get a foothold in parliament in the future. Thus the 3% barrier will consolidate the positions of the exisiting parliamentary parties. It will particularly favour the largest parties; Centre, National Coalition and SDP. They may see their support increase, as people considering voting for a party that is predicted in opinion polls to only just make it over 3% may see voting for that party as dangerous for their vote, if it is to count. Instead, they might just give their vote to a bigger party, sure of getting over 3% instead. If introduced, this 3% barrier will lead to more wasted votes. Hardly democratic.
Obviously, the news in the last few days has been heavily dominated by the events in Georgia. Finland is abnormally prominent in having a role in events as we happen to currently hold the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europa, OSCE. Foreign minister Alexander Stubb (Kokoomus national coaltion party) has, together with the French foreign minister (France holds the EU presidency just now) travelled to both Georgia and Moscow to mediate.
Yle’s online news service has published an interesting look at what the press is saying on the conflict. I’ll do my best to summarise it here.
The Centre party’s organ Suomenmaa has compared Georgia’s fate with Finland’s. South Ossetia is a small strip of land, smaller than the northern municipality of Kuusamo, and yet the region has now become the centre for a conflict, the paper analyses. Stalin installed a Soviet-friendly government, the Kuusinen Terijoki government in Finland, but Russia has not done something similar in Georgia… yet, the paper says.
´Our neighbour finds itself with a war, with another neighbour´ writes the highest circulated Swedish-speaking newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet (HBL). HBL warns against drawing close parallels despite the easy to make associations with the Winter War and a Finnish West Karelia and a Russian East Karelia. ´The truth is not so simple´, writes Björn Månson in HBL, ´despite spontaneous sympathies with Georgia. It’s not coincidence that the European Nato-member countries have persistently opposed Georgian Nato-membership due to it being seen as an open provocation against Russia.´
If Georgia’s leadership believed it could have counted on US, Nato or other allies turning their verbal support into material action, then they made a miscalculation – according to HBL.
Several of Sweden’s newspapers take the similar viewpoints and go further in stating that there are clear indications that is is oil and gas that ensures an cautious EU reaction to the conflict.
Stockholm’s Dagens Nyheter’s leader column notes that a Russia that can’t tolerate a neighbouring country that has ambitions to move nearer to the west is a failed state with a leadership that looks as if it acts in panic. Oil and gas pipelines mean there is a potential for energy-related political pressure in several directions – and an extremely short distance from the exchange of words to all out war.
History has not ended, writes Stockholm’s Svenska Dagbladet (SvD). ‘Now we see with what ease Russia finds excuses to take itself to war with a neighbouring country. Is it not time for a new debate on defence policy?´ ponders Claes Arwidsson in SvD. In his leader, he quotes Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt (Swedish moderate party) who is presently the chairman of the Council of Europe:
´With the possible exception of Cyprus in 1974, the Council of Europe has never had to deal with a situation where there is war between two of its member states´.
Picture: Georgian president Micheil Saakasjvili, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb meeting in Tbilisi on Monday 11.8. Taken from Alexander Stubb’s blog (www.alexstubb.com).
Finland is famous for having being named as the world’s least corrupt country. This has been the result a number of times in recent years of the organisation Transparancy International’s survey. The Finnish media has always liked to trumpet this fact in the way that small countries do (understandably) like to enjoy moments when they are top of the league.
However, the ongoing party election financing scandal demands some serious reconsideration of our position as a land untroubled by corruption.
An interesting article in this morning’s Hufvudstadsbladet (HBL) reveals an interesting perspective on just why Finland is so clean in the eye’s of the transparency index.
According to Superintendent Jenni Klemola of the Central Criminal Police, who has for the last year been involved in a group actively following corruption cases in Finland, the explanation is simple. We simply don’t use the word corruption very much. She explained to HBL, “The difference between Finland and countries in southern Europe is that we talk about failures of duty, bribery and fraud without using the word ‘corruption’. In corresponding cases on the continent, the media would quickly scream out the news as a new corruption case being revealed.”
Klemola clarifies that there is no internationally agreed definition of corruption. Every country can create its own definition. “The word corruption doesn’t even appear in Finnish legislation. It’s also completely missing from party programmes”, she says.
“Transparency Index, which year after year announces Finland as one of the world’s least corrupt nations, does no scientific comparison to reach its conclusion. The measurement of the corruption index is built on expert statements. And because neither the Finnish media or legal system uses the word corruption, the experts draw the conclusion that the phenomenon doesn’t occur here.”
“Court cases that concern fraud, bribery and failures of duty are not considered. But now I’m waiting, with excitement, this autumn’s survey result”.
Kormela believes that that all forms of abuse of power for one’s own gain should be considered as corruption. Kormela goes on to say that “In Finland, the risk of corruption is greater when so many people have multiple positions of power – in politics, business and sport – that they can easily mix up.”
Kormela is suspicious of the entire Transparency Index. She points out that the index shows that Switzerland is side by side with Finland as one of the least corrupt countries in the world whilst many African nations are amongst the most corrupt – yet, many of the corrupt African heads of state almost certainly have their bank accounts in Swiss banks.
In other news, Centre party and Kokoomus (national coalition party) have their party conferences in Joensuu and Tampere/Tammerfors respectively over this weekend. The Centre party has perhaps received the most criticism during the election financing scandal.
Centre’s party secretary Jarmo Korhonen, who has been accused of being very much involved with the KMS scandal, defended robustly his position on the opening day yesterday (Friday). He told party delegates that he had been working very hard to get funds for the party – saying he’d been eating sometimes 3 lunches a day and suffering an upset stomach due to drinking so much coffee, all for the good of meeting people interested in donating money to the party funds. This went down well with the Centre party delegates. He claimed that the Social Democrats were the real capitalists, receiving the most financial backing. According to him, Centre also received less money than Kokoomus and were way down in 4th place – “even SFP get more money than us from some fund or other of theirs”.
Many of the delegates assembled in Joensuu blame the “capital city’s media” for blowing up the scandal, according to HBL. The Centre party enjoys the majority of its support from communities in rural, agrarian based Finnish-speaking Finland.
The controversial outspoken Swedish-speaking Centre party district chairman Peter Albäck has declared (via his blog) that the Swedish Peoples’ Party (Sfp) threatened to quit the government coalition if no proposal for a Swedish-speaking district was included in the court district reform plan (announced about a week ago).
Albäck makes the claim amongst many of his regular denunciations of Sfp (indeed, even to the impartial political observer, his blog seems much more concentrated on forwarding a personal vendetta against Sfp than presenting Centre’s views or policies). Senior Sfp members (including Ulla-Maj Wideroos) have denied that his accusation is true and again expressed dismay that Albäck is threatening the good cooperation between Centre and Sfp at government level.
It is indeed hard not to doubt the trustworthyness of Albäck’s statement, especially given the way he decries any one who does not hold his opinions on his blog (for instance regularly calling people who sympathise with Sfp politics as “taliban”.) If Sfp had threatened to quit, surely they wouldn’t want to keep it secret. For many of their electorate, it would be seen as a good thing; cast-iron proof that Sfp is standing-up for Swedish-speaking Finns. One has to wonder if Albäck’s latest attempted smear on Sfp actually does it more favours than harm.
Image source: Peter Albäck, Centre party’s online image bank. Copyright Suomen keskusta.