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Finland's National Elections
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-02-20 09:50:30
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The time for the National Elections is getting closer in Finland and you cannot help noticing that candidates and parties are gradually getting more aggressive in their campaigns. The two major parties, Keskusta (the Center Party) and SDP (Social-Democrats) seem to have found the balance after four years in a coalition government and their campaigns seem slower and calmer than they were four years ago.

Back in the elections of 2003, the two parties were really at each other’s throats, each having a leader with a strong personality. The SDP had Paavo Lipponen, a historic persona with a long history in Finnish politics and Keskusta had the charismatic Anneli Jäätteenmäki, who transformed the party into an urban party modernizing it with a strong influence in the main cities of Finland. Their contradistinction soon became a personal battle and it resulted in a new era in Finnish politics seeing the end of the strong historic personas whose personality often became stronger influence to the party ideology and the rise of a more management-style leadership, with leaders that act more like managers of a company.

This personal battle eventually resulted in Mrs. Jäätteenmäki becoming Prime Minister and the honourable position of Speaker, but not leader of the SDP, for Mr. Lipponen. Thus led to a series of more changes throughout the whole of mainstream Finnish politics, with the leaders of the Left Alliance and the Green Party resigning and Kokoomus (the right-wing party) electing new leadership – they replaced Mr. Sauli Niinistö with the much-younger Jurki Katainen in the spirit of a new wind of younger politicians.

Once again it seems that the two main parties will share most of the votes leaving the smaller parties, especially Kokoomus, to play the role of the regulator. The role of the other parties is pretty clear, with the Left Alliance only allying with a center-left government that excludes Keskusta and Kokoomus, while the Swedish Party will ally with…just about anybody so long as they can get a ministry. The same also applies to the Green Party, which has gone as far as to accept the creation of a new nuclear plant in Finland so long as they would get a ministerial seat – so much for ideology!

Kokoomus has played a strange part in Finnish politics by allying with Paavo Lipponen and the SDP to create a government at the end of the 20th century. Despite its own very conservative program, it has never been able to break the SDP’s socialist reforms, probably even less than Keskusta that has been their current partner. From the other side, they became really bitter when Keskusta preferred a coalition with the SDP, thereby excluding them from the last government. They believed that their ideology was closer to the conservative Keskusta than the Social Democrats.

Finland, following the general conservative turn in Europe after 9/11 and the ‘invasion’ of thousands of immigrants in the last decade, saw the number of immigrants rising by 700% in only six years, especially in the urban areas that seem to give more support to Kokoomus, which gives rise to many expectations for a better result in this election. Already the leader of the party and major officials have started having meetings with other parties, especially Keskusta, feeling that if the surveys come true and their power increases, they will be the only solution for a partner, always expecting that Keskusta will be leading in the number of votes.

The coming four weeks are obviously going to be waiting and watching to see how the parties will react to Kokoomus raising issues such as NATO and security, which are even issues that have already caused disagreements within even their own parties. For example, while the SDP doesn’t feel very comfortable with this NATO talk Paavo Lipponen, the former president of the party, has openly given his support to the idea.

Another challenging issue is the attitude of Prime Minister Marti Vanhanen, who was replaced Anneli Jäätteenmäki after her unexpected resignation just three months after winning the election. It will be a first for him in this new position and also suffering from a personal scandal that the opposition, no doubt, will definitely remind him.

Let’s see, we will keep you informed!

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