You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘minority’ tag.
The Swedish People’s Party (Svenska folkpartiet in Swedish, or SFP for short) is to ponder its own name in upcoming discussions on renewal as part of the ongoing Kasnäs manifesto process.
The aim of the Kasnäs process is to give SFP a clearer, more definable image and to place it on track to win 10% of votes in national elections. Much of the debate has centred on more clearly presenting the party as Finland’s principle party of liberal values. There is currently no party in parliament that defines itself as principally liberal. SFP’s European parliament member Carl Haglund is leading the Kasnäs process and has suggested that the word ‘liberal’ is somehow incorporated in the party’s name.
According to media reports, uggestions for a new name have included ‘Svenska folkpartiet – Liberalerna‘ (The Swedish People’s Party – The Liberals), ‘Svenska liberala folkpartiet’ (The Swedish Liberal People’s Party), ‘Folkpartiet Liberalerna‘ (The People’s Party – The Liberals), ‘Finlands svenska folkparti’ (Finland’s Swedish People’s Party), or simply ‘Folkpartiet’ (The People’s Party).
Any move away from a name including Swedish would be controversial and potentially dangerous. In seeking out a new source of voters in the form of liberal Finnish-speaking Finns, the party may well alienate its core bloc of voters – Swedish speakers. I feel it is extremely optimistic for those in the party advocating a change to hope that they can both appeal to liberals regardless of language group and maintain the current level of support amongst Swedish-speakers simultaneously.
SFP has always, by necessity, been a broad church, even if the liberal-wing has perhaps had the largest following. Swedish-speaking Finns are by no means a homogenous group. Just as amongst Finnish-speakers, there are farmers, town dwellers, factory workers, bank-owners, entrepreneurs and everything else in between. Certainly not all of these are traditional liberals. However, they do all share the common requirement to have a voice in the Finnish politics that speaks up for the rights of the Swedish language and those that wish to live through it. Emphasising one political ideology as more important than the party’s Swedish nature is not the way to electoral success.
That said, SFP does face a real challenge. Increasingly, Swedish-speaking Finns are more and more bilingual in the way they live their lives. For many in the larger towns of southern Finland, the Swedish-speaking part of their identity is less and less a defining point – or, at least not as important as it was for previous generations. They can get by perfectly well in Finnish, their partner is quite probably Finnish-speaking and thus other political issues than language can more easily sway this new group’s voting intention. In addition to that, the coming voting form (of questionable democratic credentials) will make it harder in the future for SFP to gain parliamentary representation. We Swedish-speakers are finally not decreasing in numbers, but we continue to decline as a percentile proportion of the entire national population (and thus as an electoral force). In such a climate, it is understandable and possibly crucial that SFP reaches out to win more Finnish-speaking votes. The sad reality is that the party may be before too long, as the Americans say, be between a rock and a hard place.
The Kasnäs manifesto, the basis of the Kasnäs process which is looking into how best to redefine SFP for the future, can be read in English on SFP’s website by following this link.
The budget of Finland’s national public service broadcaster Yle is again under pressure. Because of an unexpectedly low increase in the television licence fee (which all households owning a TV must pay in Finland), Yle is facing a budget shortfall of around 31 million euros. In order to save money, the idea of closing down one or two of the company’s four television channels has been floated. The Finnish-language cultural and educational TV channel Yle Teema and, more notably, the Swedish-language channel FST5 are under threat.
Speaking today, Yle’s managing director Mikael Jungner said he could not guarantee that FST5 would continue as a channel in its own right but did say that Swedish-language programmes would continue to exist in prime time in the future. This seems to point the way backwards to the period pre-2007, when Swedish-language programmes from FST (Finlands Svenska Television) were broadcast in blocks on the two main (Finnish language) Yle channels, TV1 and TV2.
A step backwards hardly seems the right way to go. Finland has only one Swedish language channel, FST5. To lose it thus would be highly disproportionate compared to the loss of one Finnish language TV channel. There is no opportunity for commercial actors to succeed in providing Swedish television programmes produced in Finland. It’s also important to note that FST5 is, in many ways, more equalitarian in its outreach across the language barrier than other channels. FST5 subtitles all of its programmes in Finnish (with the exception of news bulletins), so they are accessible to the non-Swedish speaking Finnish language speakers. Few to no programmes are subtitled in Swedish on Yle’s Finnish-language channels. Indeed, FST’s flagship programmes such as the lifestyle show Strömsö and the talk show Bettina S clearly attract a large Finnish-speaking audience, as shown in ratings and in comments to their websites. One must also wonder how likely it really is that the Finnish-speaking Yle viewer would once again accept huge interruptions into the hours of Finnish-language content for FST to be given time to broadcast – especially now that he or she is now used to uninterrupted Finnish programming on Yle’s flagship channels.
For many Swedish-speaking Finns, especially those with poor or no command of Finnish, FST5 is the only television channel that presents the world from their point of view. If it closes, Sweden’s television channels will only grow in popularity (at least amongst those who can afford to subscribe to them – which brings up another issue, why in the EU free market does one have to pay to see a neighbour country’s “free” TV) and that will mean a large number of Swedish-speaking Finns will be come disconnected with their homeland. FST is particularly important for young children, for it is only on FST that they can watch children’s TV programmes presented in Finland-Swedish, where they will see children’s TV directed at them. Sweden is, after all, a foreign country. I can’t imagine that British parents would be happy if the only children’s TV on offer to their offspring was American.
Yle clearly must save money. It is being forced to by economics. But, the government could and should step in. We have a quite crazy situation in which the TV distribution technology (transmitters etc) was sold off to foreign ownership in the form of Digita. This company now makes a huge profit in effectively overcharging Yle and others for the distribution of their channels. If the distribution function had remained in public hands, it’s likely Yle would not be facing the difficult decision to have to cut costs from its core activity – the programme budget.
Picture: FST5′s news studio, home of the main TV-nytt news bulletins.
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
Two Swedish-speaking girls employed by the Soldier’s Home at the naval base in Obbnäs (Upinniemi in Finnish) in Kyrkslätt (Kirkkonummi) municipality received orders from their manager not to speak Swedish between themselves, according to a report in this morning’s Hufvudstadsbladet.
The paper reports that the incident occurred during the middle of June this year. One of the girls no longer works at the Soldier’s Home but the other is still there. Both are teenage upper-secondary school students.
According to the girls, they received on several occasions an order not to speak Swedish to each other in front of customers, which they regarded as embarassing. Both think it is tedious that as two Swedish-speaking Finns they should be forced to speak Finnish with each other. With customers, they always spoke Finnish.
The older colleague who made the instructions insists that she did it in a separate room away from customers. According to her, it’s not polite to speak Swedish and Finnish-speakers can become upset if they hear it. That Swedish is one of the country’s official languages is of no regard, according to her.
The head of the Solidier’s Home in Obbnäs, Raili Pursi, told Hufvudstadsbladet that the older colleague has now herself received instructions that she may not make demands regarding the Swedish language in the future. He told the paper, “Naturally, Swedish-speaking employees may speak their native language. Anything else is unacceptable.”
Soldier’s Homes are places run by the independent association ´Sotilaskotiliitto-Soldathemsförbundet ry/rf´ which is not a part of the defence forces. They are placed at military bases and are places for soldiers to spend their leisure time at, with cafeteria and games facilities etc.
Image: The Soldier’s Home in Dragsvik – where it is definitely allowed to speak Swedish, both between the staff and to the customers!
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.