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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.
An opinion survey ordered by the Swedish-speaking think tank ‘Magma’ has concluded that Swedish-speaking Finns are significantly more positive in their attitudes towards immigration than the Finnish-speaking population.
In January 2009, around 40% of Finnish-speakers questioned in an opinion poll answered that they had the same or partly the same opinion on the statement “an increase in the number of foreigners brings with it useful international influences”. When Magma’s survey asked Swedish-speakers the same question in September this year, 75% of respondents gave this answer.
It is interesting to speculate why Swedish-speakers are, on average, more positive towards immigrant groups. One theory is that Swedish-speakers, as a minority group, find it easier to empathise with other people who find themselves in a similar minority situation. After all, many Swedish-speakers have to make compromises when it comes to their language and habits in order to live their life in an increasingly Finnish-language dominated environment. This experience may cause Swedish-speakers to be more sympathetic towards the demands that ‘trying to fit in’ brings for immigrants. Some people also argue that the average Swedish-speaker is, on average, more international in his or her outlook than the the average Finnish-speaker. Swedish-speakers have often nurtured contacts with the outside world, especially the other Nordic countries, with a greater vivacity. Another argument is that there is a greater degree of community involvement amongst Swedish-speakers who have a more developed “association culture”. This may foster a greater degree of what is known in Swedish as medmänsklighet, roughly “solidarity with your fellow man” or “brotherliness”, amongst those living in Svenskfinland. Of course, all such theories come with their controversies, the stark difference in attitudes is, whatever the reason for them, highly interesting.
I recently discovered an interesting blog called ‘Migrant Tales‘. The author of which is clearly concerned with immigration matters and writes a lot on Finland’s migration politics. Often, in debates on how immigrants should be integrated into Finnish society, one hears the argument “When in Rome, do as the Romans”; in other words, that integration should mean that migrants to Finland so quickly as possibly forget their own background and take on entirely a Finnish lifestyle – essentially abandoning or replacing their own cultural values and taking on ours completely. This argument comes up in comments to Migrant Tales and in many other online and offline debates on immigration and integration policy.
This “When in Rome, do as the Romans attitude” got me thinking today when I heard a story on Yle Radio Västnyland (I’m on holiday at the moment in my wife’s home area near Ekenäs) this morning about the increase in people moving from the capital region to the rural municipality of Ingå. The report was about this high level of Finnish-speakers moving into Ingå causing the municipality’s sole Finnish-language school becoming overcrowded and featured a Kokoomus (National Coalition party) Finnish-speaking member of the Ingå council suggesting that Ingå ought to urgently look to constructing a new, second Finnish-language school in the municipaltiy as many Finnish-speaking families were “making do” with putting their children in Swedish-language Ingå schools to save them from travelling longer distances to the municipality’s one Finnish school.
Now, I wonder what the “When in Rome, do as the Romans” attitude holders would make of this. Surely if Rome were Ingå, and one was to do as the local ‘Romans’, one should be adopting the Swedish-language rather than insisting on Finnish language services. Today’s Ingå is a bilingual municipality with Swedish as the majority language (according to the municipal website, around 57% of the 5 458 residents speak Swedish – 40% have Finnish as their mother tongue.) If one went back to 1950, before any widescale immigration to the municipality had got underway, you would have found that 89,5% of Ingå’s residents spoke Swedish as their mother tongue (according to Folktinget’s statistics). Before the wars of the 40s, you would have found that the municipality was unilingually Swedish-speaking. So, presumably if you held the “When in Rome” attitude, you would be condemning those unthoughtful Finnish-speaking immigrants of today and the latter half of the 20th century for not integrating and insisting on the superceding of their own culture on to the Finland-Swedish. You would be accusing them of failing to act as one should in Rome.
Incidentally, this argument could be applied to many, many more districts – including municipalities that no Finnish speaker would think of as a traditionally Swedish-speaking area today; for instance, the capital region’s Esbo (Espoo) which is today’s second largest city in Finland with around 235 000 residents (mainly due to immigrants from the rest of the country moving to the capital region) was 43% Swedish-speaking still in 1950. Today it is 8,9%. Before the wars and in the first half of the 20th century it was still a very rural, sparsely populated unilingual Swedish municipality. Is this another example where the “When in Rome” attitude holders would see a failure?
Now, I’m not arguing for the application of the “When in Rome, do as the Romans” (i.e. integrate completely or stay away) attitude in official policy. Hopefully my thoughts here help expose such thinking as unrealistic at the very least. I would love to hear from some “When in Rome, do as the Romans” attitude holders as to whether their beliefs also cover their own Finnish-speaking compatriots when they have chosen to move to Swedish-speaking areas and often cause them to dramatically change in cultural and linguistic character.
The Foreign ministry has released a new publication called Suomi ulkomaisissa tiedotusvälineissä 2007 (Finland in the foreign media 2007) which details what the foreign media reported from Finland during last year.
According to the foreign ministry report, Finland’s success in the annual PISA survey of education quality again earned Finland the title of education superpower with journalists worldwide wondering if their countries could reach the Finnish level of education. The global media also noted that Finland has the most female dominated government in the world, with more women ministers than men. The large number of women parliament members also gained admiration.
There was a more negative tone in some of the press’ coverage when the well-regarded prominent Financial Times reported that Finland was on the way to an economic crisis. The shooting drama in Jokela and the negative coverage surrounding it left a mark at the end of the year.
Finland’s Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (centre party) has ruled himself out of the 2012 presidential election already. Vanhanen told the newspaper Itä-Savo that he doesn’t want to be president and had already experienced one presidential election (the last one in 2006 where he ran and was eliminated in the first round after coming in third place with 18,6% of the vote). Vanhanen did however state that he was aiming for a third term as prime minister.
This leaves potentially both Centre and the Social Democrats without obvious candidates for the 2012 elections, although it is obviously still a long way off and the SDP will get a new chairman this summer.
Their main rivals, the National Coalition party Kokoomus do however have one obvious candidate, Sauli Niinistö. Niinistö came second in 2006 with 48,2% of the vote in the second round against Tarja Halonen. This was a respectable result considering highly popular Halonen got 49,4% in the first round and before that took place, people were tipping the election to be already settled in one round. Since then, Niinistö has been elected to the Finnish parliament in 2007′s election, getting the most personal votes ever in a parliamentary election, and become speaker of parliament. He’s seen to be popular and easily the favourite right now to become Kokoomus’ first president since Paasikivi who left office in 1956. Still, if a week is a long time in politics, 4 years is surely an eternity.
The Swedish people’s party’s (Sfp) current member of the European parliament Henrik Lax has said that he will not be standing for reelection in next year’s European parliamentary election. Lax, who is 63-years old, justifies his decision to leave the European parliament after one period by saying that he wants more time to relax and take it easy after having spent 40 years in political life, according to the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.
Lax was elected to the European parliament in 2004 after Astrid Thors (who nowadays is the minister of migration in the national government and Sfp’s Helsinki MP in the Finnish parliament). He was elected in 14th place out of Finland’s 14 MEP seats. From next year’s election, Finland will lose a place and only have 13 seats available making it all the more difficult for Sfp to be able to obtain elected representation at the EU level.
Lax hopes that there will be a place created for Swedish-speakers in future representation to the European parliament. Åland’s government is already loudly calling for its own separate MEP constituency and Åland’s parliament could vote down the Lisbon treaty if concessions are not made by Helsinki. Lax suggests that one seat reserved for Swedish-speakers could be an alternative saying that there ought to be representation for the language minority.