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Helsinkian
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« on: January 10, 2019, 11:26:26 am »

Introduction

Finland will hold a parliamentary election on 14 April. 200 MPs will be elected using the proportional D’Hondt method with open lists. There is no national electoral threshold. Because Finland, unlike Sweden, has no method for apportioning the seats to the parties in accordance with their national support, Finland essentially has 13 separate elections in the 13 electoral districts. These vary in size from Uusimaa with 36 seats to Lapland with 7 seats (and Åland with 1 seat, but that’s a special case).

Juha Sipilä’s government coalition formed after the 2015 election originally consisted of the Centre Party, the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party. Early on in the coalition’s tenure, the surge of asylum seekers caused consternation especially within the nationalist Finns Party, the consequence of which was the election of a more radical leader for the party in 2017, which in turn led to the moderates jumping ship. After the Finns Party split in 2017, the Finns Party was kicked out of the coalition, but all of its former ministers stayed in the cabinet as members of the new Blue Reform party which consists of the Finns Party’s former moderate wing. Finns Party's downfall in government mirrors its predecessor party's fate in the 1980s; it has been said that the Finnish establishment parties prefer to "hug populists to death" (by having them participate in government as junior partners) rather than isolating them.

The coalition of Centre, NCP and Blue Reform now has 103 MPs. The relations between Centre and NCP have been strained by the coalition’s big project, the attempt to reform Finland’s social service and health care administration: this involves combining the Centre Party’s pet project of regional self-governance with the NCP’s goal of promoting the status of private care providers. The ultimate fate of this project will be decided shortly before the election. In addition, the government has been feuding with unions over various reforms concerning the labour market and unemployment benefits.

Though the current coalition consists of only centre-right parties, Finnish politics has a tradition of government coalitions crossing the left–right-divide (with even the NCP and the Left Alliance in the same coalition a few times). The leader of the largest party will almost certainly become Prime Minister. There are no permanent political blocs. Party leaders often avoid discussing coalition options before the election and rarely shut the doors on potential coalition partners beforehand; this time several parties have, however, stated that they are not interested in working with the Finns Party.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 08:58:48 am by Helsinkian »Logged
Helsinkian
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2019, 11:27:35 am »

Parties represented in the parliament

There are currently eleven parties or political groups represented in the parliament (the last one is not officially a party).

Centre Party (49 seats in the 2015 election; 48 now. Chair: Juha Sipilä. European Parliament group: ALDE) – Known as the Agrarian League until the 1960s, the Centre Party is first and foremost the champion of rural regions and small towns. They are the main advocate of establishing regional self-governance with elected regional councils. Centre is especially strong in the Northern part of the country (43% in the districts of Oulu and Lapland in 2015). A party with long traditions of governing, the Finnish Centre Party is a substantially larger party than the Centre Parties of Sweden or Norway. In 2015 they were the largest party and thus gained the position of Prime Minister. Though a member of ALDE and the Liberal International, the Centre Party is by no means a typical liberal party due to its rural and agrarian nature, as their rural supporters tend to fall on the conservative side on social issues. When the Finnish Parliament voted on same-sex marriage a few years ago, most Centre Party MPs voted against it (while most MPs of the supposedly conservative NCP voted in favour). This is a major difference to the Swedish Centre Party. In Northern Finland a large part of the party's base are Laestadians (a very conservative revival movement within the Lutheran church).

National Coalition Party (37 seats in 2015; 38 seats now. Chair: Petteri Orpo. EPP.) – The centre-right NCP supports free markets, lowering taxes, promoting private sector service providers in relation to the public sector, deepening EU integration and applying for NATO membership. Its support is concentrated in and around the large urban areas, and it is particularly popular among entrepreneurs, people in a managerial position, civil servants and the upper middle class. For most of the Cold War era the party was kept outside of government because it was perceived as being too “pro-West”. After 1987 they have, however, participated in all but one coalition. Historically the NCP was a party of traditional values, often associated with the Finnish conservative motto “Home, Religion, Fatherland” (political cartoonists used to depict NCP as a Lutheran preacher wearing a military helmet). This has changed in the 2000s, as the party has become more socially liberal, supporting, for example, same-sex marriage and multiculturalism. Though the party still has a social conservative wing, the liberals are now in the driver’s seat. The current chair is Petteri Orpo, Finance Minister.

Finns Party (38 seats in 2015; 17 seats now. Chair: Jussi Halla-aho. ECR.) – Internationally still sometimes known by the earlier translation of their name, True Finns, the Finns Party are a nationalist and right-wing populist party. Founded in 1995 as a successor to the defunct Rural Party, the Finns Party surged in 2011 from 5 seats to 39 on a platform of Euroscepticism and immigration criticism. They managed to hold their support in 2015, becoming the second largest party in seats (though behind the NCP in votes) and entered the Sipilä coalition with five ministers. Soon afterwards it all started to go downhill. Timo Soini, party leader for 20 years (1997–2017) who became Minister for Foreign Affairs, essentially turned the party into a doormat for the coalition partners, doing little to counter government policies unpopular among the party’s supporters and squashing dissent within the party. Soini’s autocratic leadership style, evident for a long time, now became too much for the party members who came to view Soini as an egotist who cared more about his own career than of any sort of ideology.

Sensing that he might face humiliation in the party’s leadership election in 2017, Soini decided to retire as party chair and endorsed Sampo Terho, his right-hand man in the party’s more moderate wing. The more radical wing, opposed to “Soinists” and demanding more action in countering the surge of asylum seekers, found their candidate in MEP Jussi Halla-aho. The leadership election was won by Halla-aho. The moderate wing (slightly over half of the MPs) immediately jumped ship, founded their own party (Blue Reform) and conspired with Centre and NCP to remain in the cabinet, while Finns Party went into opposition. Under Halla-aho, the Finns Party has hardened its rhetoric on immigration, and they have also formed links with the Sweden Democrats (something with which Soini had been uncomfortable).

Social Democratic Party (34 seats in 2015; 35 now. Chair: Antti Rinne. S&D.) – The main centre-left party, the Finnish Social Democrats had a historically bad election in 2015, finishing fourth. Now things are looking better for SDP, as they lead the polls. In the long-term the party is still in trouble, as their support base is the oldest of all parties. Young left-wingers seem to prefer Left Alliance or Green League over SDP. Pensioners are thus an important base for SDP, along with working-class union members. As it comes to SDP's ideology, it's pretty much standard Social Democracy / Nordic welfare state: large public sector, high taxes, extensive public services etc. Not as conservative as Danish Social Democrats but not quite as socially liberal as the Swedish Social Democrats. The party is led by Antti Rinne, former union boss who was briefly Finance Minister before the 2015 election.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 03:54:14 pm by Helsinkian »Logged
Helsinkian
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2019, 11:28:30 am »

(Parties represented in the parliament, continued)

Green League (15 seats in 2015. Chair: Pekka Haavisto. Greens-EFA) – Unlike many other Green parties of Europe, the leadership of the Finnish Greens usually avoids openly calling the party left-wing. But, although they have co-operated with the bourgeois parties, their policies are often not that different from those of the Left Alliance. Among younger voters the Greens are viewed as a “trendy” party, and their support is especially high among students, academic professionals and reporters (the most popular party among reporters according to one survey). The Greens’ support is concentrated in the big cities of Southern Finland, and in Helsinki they are the second largest party. Among educated socially liberal middle-class voters in Helsinki, there are definitely a lot of people who waiver between the Greens and the NCP. In the first half of the parliament’s term the Greens made great strides in the opinion polls under the then-leader Ville Niinistö, even reaching second place in some 2017 polls. The popular leader was, however, term-limited by the party’s rules. The support then slumped under his successor Touko Aalto who later stepped down for personal reasons and was replaced by Pekka Haavisto (twice number two in Presidential elections) as an interim leader. Even with the slump, the Greens are polling clearly ahead of their 2015 result.

Left Alliance (12 seats in 2015. Chair: Li Andersson. GUE-NGL.) – The most left-wing of the parliamentary parties, Left Alliance was founded in 1990 as a successor to the old Communist Party and its front organisation, the Finnish People’s Democratic League. In the 2000s the old communists have stepped aside to make room for a younger generation in the party’s leadership. The current leaders have positioned the Left Alliance as a “red-green” or an Eco-Socialist party. The party has gone downward in all parliamentary elections of this millennium; occasional successes in Southern Finland, but falling support in their traditional strong areas in the North. Now they're slightly on the rise again.

Swedish People’s Party (10 seats in 2015 (incl. Åland). Chair: Anna-Maja Henriksson. ALDE.) A party of the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland (who are circa 5% of the population). The SPP gets over two thirds of the Swedish-speaking votes. The SPP has been a staple of Finnish coalitions, being represented in the cabinet continuously from 1979 until they were left out of the Sipilä coalition in 2015. The other parties have found the SPP an easy partner to collaborate with, as it has been willing to support all sorts of policies in return for the other governing parties’ commitment not to weaken the position of the Swedish language (which is an official language alongside Finnish). The current Finnish political debate on the position of the Swedish language is concentrated on the question of mandatory Swedish teaching in schools, with most Finnish speakers wanting to make Swedish a voluntary school subject instead of a mandatory one. However, of the political parties, the Finns Party is the only one that supports that proposal. Aside from the language question, the SPP identifies itself as a market liberal and socially liberal party. The SPP sits in the ALDE group in the European Parliament together with the Centre Party. Compared to other Finnish political parties, it is, however, ideologically closer to the National Coalition Party: the SPP is economically right-wing and supports continued EU integration as well as applying for NATO membership. The single MP from the Åland islands sits in the same parliamentary group with the SPP, but the party doesn’t actually operate on Åland, as the archipelago has its own party system.

Christian Democrats (5 seats in 2015. Chair: Sari Essayah. EPP.) – A party for the religious and socially conservative people, the Christian Democrats broke away from the National Coalition Party in the 1950s. Anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage etc. The Christian Democrats used to sit in the EPP group in the European Parliament back when they had an MEP, but they currently don’t have one.

Blue Reform (did not exist in 2015; 17 seats now. Chair: Sampo Terho.) – The party founded in 2017 by the Finns Party’s former moderate wing who left the party following Jussi Halla-aho’s election as party leader and remained in the Sipilä coalition. Blue Reform has failed to gain traction, usually polling at 1–2%. While the defectors managed to take half of the Finns Party’s MPs with them, at the local level only around 10 percent of municipal councillors defected. Blue Reform faces a dilemma: if it wants to get votes from Finns Party supporters, it has to be critical of immigration and the EU, but it can’t be too anti-immigration or too anti-EU – the party’s whole raison d'être being the argument that Finns Party became too radical in these issues under Halla-aho. Consequently, Blue Reform has adopted a lot of NCP-style rhetoric on lowering taxes etc. – but here too one might ask why a voter who wants to lower taxes would choose them over the NCP. With a roughly 2% support Blue Reform might get shut out of the parliament entirely, but they could also get one or two MPs because of the large size of the Uusimaa district (36 MPs). A lot depends on whether Timo Soini is a candidate or not. Blue Reform doesn’t have MEPs but they are members of AECR (the European Party behind the ECR group) – incidentally the Finns Party left AECR while remaining in the ECR group.

Seven Star Movement (did not exist in 2015; 1 seat now. Chair: Paavo Väyrynen.) – Väyrynen, a veteran politician from the Centre Party’s conservative wing, became disillusioned with Centre, and founded his own party, the Citizens’ Party. Having suffered a “coup” in that new party, he founded a second party, the Seven Star Movement (the name is supposedly a reference to the Big Dipper, though it’s clear that its inspiration is in Italy). This party is Eurosceptic and broadly centrist, though first and foremost it’s a one-man band for Väyrynen.

Movement Now (did not exist in 2015, 2 seats now. Chair: Harry Harkimo.) – Harkimo, a wealthy businessman (he has hosted the Finnish version of The Apprentice TV show), was elected to parliament representing NCP but left the party in 2018 to found this new “movement”. He has intentionally refused to register it as a party, and thus they will run candidates on independent lists rather than under a party banner. Movement Now is supposedly big-tent; others consider them to be market liberal, challenging the NCP from the right in that regard. They talk of e-democracy and Harkimo has suggested that he would take into account the way people have voted on the movement’s website when he’s voting in parliament.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 08:59:27 am by Helsinkian »Logged
Helsinkian
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2019, 11:29:29 am »

Parties outside the parliament

Pirate Party – Like the name suggests, part of the European pirate movement.

Communist Party of Finland – Founded in the 1990s by the Marxist-Leninists of the old Communist Party’s old-school wing, who viewed the Left Alliance as too moderate.

Communist Workers’ Party – Another communist micro-party, rival of the above mentioned communist party, even though most people can’t tell, what separates the two.

Independence Party – A hard-Eurosceptic party that wants Finland to leave the EU. Though Eurosceptic, they have at least previously avoided anti-immigration rhetoric, so not properly right-wing populist.

Feminist Party – Modelled after Sweden’s Feminist Initiative.

Animal Justice Party – Modelled after the Dutch party.

Liberal Party – Freedom to Choose – Classical liberal/libertarian. Originally called “Whisky Party”, as it started as a movement against alcohol regulation and bureaucracy, they had to add “Freedom to Choose” to their new name because the earlier and now-defunct Liberal Party still exists as an association, though not as a party.

Citizens’ Party – This is the party that Väyrynen first founded and then lost in a “coup”. Eurosceptic and centrist. Without Väyrynen they seem dead on arrival.

Finnish People First – Radical-right party that views the Finns Party as too moderate even under the new leadership. They grew from anti-immigration street protests.

Usually these minor parties have little chance of success, but this time there will be a four-way electoral alliance in the Helsinki electoral district between the Pirate Party, the Feminist Party, the Liberal Party and the Animal Justice Party. That gives them collectively a reasonable chance at one seat.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 02:12:21 pm by Helsinkian »Logged
Helsinkian
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2019, 11:32:43 am »

Here's the latest poll.



Probably an outlier regarding SPP, as their support is usually very stable.
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DavidB.
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2019, 11:44:06 am »

Thanks for your detailed introduction! KESK should just campaign on "Pannaan suomi kuntoon" and everything will be okay for them Tongue

On a more serious note - is the general consensus that PS are losing so much because of the fact that Soini et al. got nothing done in government, because Halla-aho steered the party so much to the right, or both? And is the 'all-right wing' government seen as kind of an experiment given Finland's tradition of broad, generally centrist coalitions, or not so much? How popular or unpopular is the government?
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2019, 12:10:55 pm »

I am guessing with the current polling probably some form of a grand coalition with parties on both sides of the spectrum.  Either Social Democratic Party or National Coalition Party is probably favoured although it does seem in Nordic Countries governing parties have a tendency to poll low in between elections than what they actually get.
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Helsinkian
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2019, 12:21:41 pm »

On a more serious note - is the general consensus that PS are losing so much because of the fact that Soini et al. got nothing done in government, because Halla-aho steered the party so much to the right, or both?

Definitely the first. The support started to dive in the fall of 2015 when 30,000 asylum seekers walked to Finland across the Swedish border and the government had Finnish soldiers literally carry their bags for them. In the 2017 municipal election the party got 8.8% while still under Soini's leadership. In 2011 and 2015 the party was able to turn out voters who would not have otherwise voted; now many of them may have returned to passivity.

And is the 'all-right wing' government seen as kind of an experiment given Finland's tradition of broad, generally centrist coalitions, or not so much? How popular or unpopular is the government?

The coalition base wasn't that ideological of a choice because Sipilä did consider including the SDP (in place of the Finns Party) in 2015, though that didn't happen in the end.

The last poll I saw had 41% approving of the government and 51% disapproving.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 12:30:58 pm by Helsinkian »Logged
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2019, 12:25:11 pm »

Commumidt workers" party has traditionally been pro DPRK., very orthodox commies.
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2019, 02:49:32 pm »

Are NCP and SPP the only parties supporting NATO membership?
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Helsinkian
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« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2019, 02:56:07 pm »

Are NCP and SPP the only parties supporting NATO membership?

Yes. The leaders of Finns Party and Blue Reform both support NATO membership personally but in those cases it's not the position of the party.
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« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2019, 03:19:33 pm »

On a more serious note - is the general consensus that PS are losing so much because of the fact that Soini et al. got nothing done in government, because Halla-aho steered the party so much to the right, or both?

Definitely the first. The support started to dive in the fall of 2015 when 30,000 asylum seekers walked to Finland across the Swedish border and the government had Finnish soldiers literally carry their bags for them.

I followed the developments of this time closely and I'm fairly certain it wasn't actually this - PS took a deep dive at the time when the labor law drama of late 2015 happened and particularly due to the "pakkolaki" affair and the subsequent union demonstration. The refugee situation hit Finland a big later, but PS had already taken a nosedive at this point, losing 5 % of their vote in the September 2015 poll and SDP gaining roughly the equivalent amount - it's pretty clear that the government going after the unions did this.
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Helsinkian
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2019, 02:21:17 pm »

Laura Huhtasaari, deputy chair of the Finns Party, was interviewed by the British journalist Katie Hopkins on the theme of grooming gangs (primarily consisting of Iraqi men with a background as asylum seekers) which were recently uncovered in Finland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtgGVTFkQoE

This will surely be a theme in the election.
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« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2019, 10:12:33 am »

If Centre, NCP and Finns Party get a majority between them is there a chance that Finns Party will join the other two form an ruling bloc or is the Blue Reform split mean that there is no way that Finns Party will join a Center-Right government ?
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2019, 10:31:36 am »

Seems like Finland might see a social democratic victory and government? That's certainly something rare in Europe these days Cheesy

Who would prop up an SDP government?

SDP-Centre-Green League?

Also seems like a "left+regionalists" government might be possible, according to polls SDP+Green League+Left Alliance+Swedish People's Party is at 48% so it might just barely be possible if someone falls below the threshold or if polls fail on that direction.

In any case, it seems Finland might be a rare bright spot for the European left.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 10:59:17 am by tack50 »Logged
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2019, 10:56:51 am »

If Centre, NCP and Finns Party get a majority between them is there a chance that Finns Party will join the other two form an ruling bloc or is the Blue Reform split mean that there is no way that Finns Party will join a Center-Right government ?

Finnish parties tend to avoid setting preconditions for goverment formation but both NCP and SDP have pretty much ruled out cooperating with Finns Party.

Seems like Finland might see a social democratic victory and government? That's certainly something rare in Europe these days Cheesy

Who would prop up an SDP government?

SDP-Centre-Green League?

Also seems like a "left+regionalists" government might be possible, according to polls SDP+Green League+Swedish People's Party is at 48% so it might just barely be possible if someone falls below the threshold or if polls fail on that direction.

In any case, it seems Finland might be a rare bright spot for the European left.

As Helsinkian noted Centre has long traditions of governing and if it suffers bad setback in elections it might prefer staying in the opposition. SDP-NCP coalition is at least as possible as SDP-Centre one (even though SDP would probably prefer Centre). Finnish coalitions tend to have pretty wide base in a parliament and as a rule usually include at leat two major parties. As likely winners I would expect Greens to be part of any future government, likely together with SPP and maybe Christian Democrats especially if it's SDP-NCP coalition.
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Helsinkian
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« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2019, 09:04:23 am »

Maria Lohela, who was the parliament's speaker from 2015 to 2018, first representing the Finns Party and then defecting to Blue Reform in 2017, has today defected for a second time, to Movement Now. She isn't going to run in the election, though, so the only practical consequence of this move is that she will vote against the government's healthcare and social services reform.
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« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2019, 07:33:51 am »

New poll:

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