Municipal elections in Finland explained

elections-1496436_640Compared to the US or the French national elections, the coming Finnish municipal elections are quiet. But in some way it is nice to be in a quiet country, part of its charm, isn’t it?

According to the Finnish elections website, municipal elections are held to elect the councilors of the municipalities. At the beginning of 2016 there were altogether 297 municipalities in continental Finland and 16 in the Province of Åland. Municipal elections are held every fourth year on the third Sunday of April. If the third Sunday in April is Easter Sunday, the Election Day is the Sunday preceding the Easter weekend. The next will be held on 9 April 2017. The number of councilors elected depends on the population of a municipality. According to Section 16 of the Local Government Act (410/2015) the number of councilors varies as follows:

Population -> Councillors

  • at most 5000 – > 13
  • 5001 – 20 000 – > 27
  • 20 001 – 50 000 – > 43
  • 50 001 – 100 000 – > 51
  • 100 001 – 250 000 – > 59
  • 250 001 – 500 000 – > 67
  • yli 500 000 – > 79

Here you can find some information in a large number of languages. I guarantee you that it does not happen in so many country that you get information in your language, especially when a lot of EU countries (and almost all non EU) do not invite foreign people to vote even in local elections. That is the beauty of the Finnish democracy.

In municipal elections, candidates may be nominated by registered parties and

constituency associations established by eligible voters.In order to establish a constituency association, a minimum of ten eligible voters resident in the municipality
in question are needed, while in certain small municipalities three or five is enough.
And when you vote, you have to vote only for one candidate in your municipality, not for a list of candidates. That is really democratic, you are not obliged to accept the choice of the party, you choose a person. And you can meet them before the elections for example on the town’s market, when you go to buy your apples and your vegetables.

For who should you vote? That is up to you, but you may need either some Finnish support for your choice, or just find on internet these nice websites asking you your opinions about a long list of matters before telling you which candidate in your municipality has (almost) the same opinions as you. Because candidates can have their own opinions, and they vary among party members… Tricky! That’s why you can meet Finns’ party members wanting more immigration, and some totally against it.

However, if you are used to the parties, here are some elements:

The Centre Party, ou Keskusta is lead by the Prime Minister Sipilä, it has difficulties to convince that they have been successful since they were elected, except cut 4 billions euros in research, universities, student allowances, education, support for daycare and salaries. That’s why they are down in the polls. However, as they may lose the election, PM Sipilä announced that there will be no more budget cuts. Before being elected, he said that he would not cut on education, but he did not keep his word, so not sure that people believe it. It is a pity that Keskusta, an agrarian party mostly conservative, after having built the Finnish social model and the Finnish economy with the social democrats, has changed and looks more ultra liberal. But one can still hope that Sipilä will produce a wonderful green energy plan for Finland, or will support the development of innovative SMEs… Centre Party members are generally  reluctant towards the EU, are not in favor of NATO (except some people like Sipilä), and support conservative values.

The National Coalition Party (NCP) or Kokoomus is a classical right-side conservative party, whose ambition is mainly to facilitate the development of big Finnish companies. In the last election, Kokoomus lost, but was invited to the government by Sipilä. They fired  their leader Alexander Stubb, who was probably too modern, and certainly not very Finnish, and chose Petteri Orpo, a quiet guy who is not as flamboyant, but seems to do the job as Minister of Finance. He is a nice guy, but does not seem to have any strong idea.  A Finnish friend told me that he would be a perfect neighbor! The main problem with this party is that there are not anymore so many Finnish big companies, they are all international, generally do not care so much about Finland and just want less taxes, state and regulations. The NCP  is going up a little. They are pro-EU, pro-Euro, pro-immigration, pro-Nato, anti taxes, anti social measures, pro privatization.

The Social Democratic Party of Finland, or Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue, SDP, colloquially demarit, is a center left party. They were linked to the trade unions, but it is less and less the case. They have problems to define themselves, as, from my point of view, they have been successful in establishing a social-democratic model in Finland, that is globally accepted by all parties (except some NCP people). They appear to be negative because their only objective seems to be to avoid that Kokoomus and Keskusta are not destroying the Finnish social model. They are lead by Antti Rinne, who comes from the trade unions, and has because of that a problem of image in the Finnish society. He has just been reelected as the leader of the party, without real opposition. They would in my opinion have to think about the kind of society they want when the machines are the workers… Rinne knows it. They were not very pro-EU, but are now more in favour, pro-immigration,  NATO reluctant (except some isolated people), social and not liberal, not very in favor of a large immigration. They lead in the most recent polls.

The Greens are the Greens, but not as everywhere: there does not seem to be internal fights, and they have nicely changed from a nature protection party to a party able to consider larger issues, such as climate change, green energy, social matters, etc… That’s why they dominate in the big towns, and in particular in the capital region, but they are not very present in the countryside. They may win the elections in Helsinki. Their leader is a relative of the President called Ville Niinistöö. They are pro-EU and pro-euro, pro-immigration, not clear about NATO (some pro, some anti), pro green energy, antinuclear, etc..

The Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset) are a twin party: there is a minority of racists, fascists and sometimes neo-nazis, who find some recognition in being in this party, and a large majority of people who could have been social democrats, but they had reasons not to join the SDP: it can be that they are not in favour of the EU, accepted now by the SDP, or that they do not want more immigrants, or that they had deceptions with the liberal measures and social cuts accepted by the SDP when it was in power. The leader is Timo Soini, who wanted to become Minister of foreign affairs (which he is now), and does not seem to do anything to push for his party’s ideas, or to exclude or condemn the neo- nazis. He is going to leave the party leadership, will run for Finland’s president (and will lose), and will probably leave the Finns Party to M. Ala-Aho, already condemned for racist insult by the Finnish Supreme Court. This partyis going down, and will probably continue to do so, but it will let a number of valuable persons unhappy with the state of affairs coming in particular from a technocratic EU and from the world’s globalization without a representation, which is a problem.

The Left Alliance, or  Vasemmistoliitto, is a classical left-wing political party, with mainly a red-green programme. They have participated in governments with the SDP and the Greens, and even with other parties, so they are quite realists  and less radical than in other countries. They want to fight poverty, homelessness and social problems, and have adopted some of the topics defended by the Greens. They are led by Li Andersson, fight racism, are not happy about the use of nuclear energy, are against liberalism.

There are other parties, such as the Swedish People Party fighting for the rights of Finland’s Swedish speaking population, and they have also some honest and good politicians. Until Sipilä’s government, they have been in all coalitions, but they did not want to work with the Finns Party, so they were out…

So you have a lot of possible choices, and each of these parties has something to bring to Finland, or to your municipality. There is in fact no wrong choice, as all these parties respect Finland’s democracy.

Feel free to comment, this post is naturally biased….



Categories: Elections

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1 reply

  1. Certainly biaised but nice summary; Kiitos.


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