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A Finnish election of see and not hear
by Thanos Kalamidas
2012-01-26 07:19:21
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This was a weird campaign; a more strange first round presidential election and even though everybody sort of knows who’s going to win they are looking forward for the second round focusing not on the favourite but on the outsider. And of course I’m talking about the presidential elections n Finland that next weekend (February 5th) go for the second and final round.

The first round despite all said was not about the winner but it was about the xenophobic extreme-right The “True” Finns. After the nearly 22% of the last parliamentary elections last year everybody was wandering how much are they going to get now especially after the 78% realized that they were partly responsible for this sudden increase of The “True” Finns from the average 6% they used to take the years before. This somehow united them and in some debates – especially the televised ones – you could sense a front lined from nearly all the spectrum of the Finnish political life. Timo Soini – the leader of the The “True” Finns – the same time was his usual arrogant self during the campaign and every time somebody was accusing him or his party’s members for wrong behaviour the answer was always the same “22% of the Finnish people voted for us!” But I’m afraid we haven’t finished with The “True” Finns and is going to take long time before they return to their 6% and of course a lot depends on the rest.

Paavo Lipponen was the other surprise of the elections and the last two days I have heard many wandering how the historic leader of the Social Democrats in early 1990s and 2000 was limited to a 6.7%. Lipponen’s return to active politics had to do with his legacy and of course his crusade against the extreme-right, The “True” Finns – that was his main excuse for his return – despite his lose will be part of his legacy and his contribution to the Finnish contemporary history. A very noble end of a long career through very difficult times. But I’m afraid this 6.7% didn’t make very happy the SDP seen its power decreasing dramatically since the last parliamentary elections and their participation in a government with the conservative party under the leadership of a conservative PM questionable. Another thing that the Social-Democrats have to deal with is that their party has become old, representing a past Finns want to leave behind and somehow move to a new era, to a new century and SDP represents all these things that remind the 80s and 90s.

Paavo Väyrynen and the Centre Party (Keskusta) continue their introversion period still not having understand what happened the last decade and still looking for an identity compressed not between the left and right – as they like to believe – but between the right and the extreme right with their history and traditions become one more pressure on top of all the others. I have said it before and I actually can see it more and more, Keskusta in the near future will be engrossed from the conservatives and the socialist democrats.

Sari Essayah from the Christian Democrats was limited to 2.5%; not good news for the Party that competed obviously unsuccessfully with The “True” Finns in xenophobia and populism occasionally scaring people. But they have invest in future loses of The “True” Finns hoping that they will manage to escape from the backyard of the Finnish politics one day.

The Swedish People's Party candidate Eva Biaudet is the other side of the Finnish political spectrum where politicians have something to say, perhaps worth to hear but old prejudice cover people’s ears. When people look at Eva Biaudet what they see is somebody who expects everybody in Finland to speak Swedish. Sadly even the Swedish speakers feel the same having create a multi-collective party with not clear orientation and has become a minority’s linguistic defence mechanism. Eva Biaudet has a lot to say about economy, immigration and foreign liaisons but what people hear is a language that despite being the state’s second language and taught in all school very few – outside the 10% minority – is interest to speak or learn. The 2.7% means that not even the minority voted for her and perhaps it is time for the SPP to do something beyond the boarders and the walls they have built for their own selves.

Paavo Arhinmäki said a lot and most of them – doesn’t matter if people voted for him or not – were well said and worth to listen. But when it comes the voting time and the Finns find themselves in front the poll they all find out a traditional allergy that tortures them for decades. They are allergic to anything that includes or even hints left. Paavo Arhinmäki has a very contemporary speech and nothing to do with the left and the communist parties of 50s and 60s but the allergy one more time proved stronger than anything else. But the problems of the Finnish left alliance don’t limit in the allergy the voters feel but expands inside the very same party were the allergy often turns into guilt for their past and their identity despite the fact that they have moved far from their past and that Paavo Arhinmäki after a period that lasted nearly six years can represent this change and the strong personality the party has lacking the last few years.

And since we are talking about speaking and not listening we got to the top two – the two who are going to compete this Sunday – and Pekka Haavisto the Green candidate. Talking about SDP before I mentioned that the Social-Democrats and Keskusta most likely represent the old, something that Finns want to get over and move and the Green party could have done that long time now. But the Finnish Green party suffered other kinds of childhood illnesses. In the beginning and despite the lessons of the central European and especially the German green party they balanced between hippism and foggy environmental slogans. And when they started realizing that a more solid ideology and practice was necessary they compromised exchanging fundamentals of the environmental movement for a ministerial seat and participation in a conservative government that flagged the creation of more nuclear power plans and put environmental issues in the bottom shelf.

Pekka Haavisto has the chance to change all that and the time and the 18.8% he took in the first round doesn’t mean that he’s going to win the presidential elections but it gives him the necessary strength to start the changes the Green party needs. And a lot of people can sense all that and most likely the 18.8% is a message, a very loud message to too many directions including the Green party. But the 18% that was aware what they were voting in the first round is not the one that is going to elect the president and I’m afraid this is were the prejudice win and the majority of the rest will not hear the words but they will see what they want to see and what they see according all the talk the last few days in Finland is that Pekka Haavisto is openly gay in an open partnership with a man with Ecuadorian origins. The schizophrenic twist is that it will be not the xenophobic The “True” Finns who will not vote him, actually some of them might even support him openly; but the traditional parties from left to right.

Sauli Niinistö is the champion of the conservative Finland and he represent what the average contemporary middle class Finn expects from their politicians. Somebody who is covering under the mask of a neutral the reality of somebody who is immaterial, savorless and scentless! Niinistö was leading the conservative National Coalition Party for long but the last few years he gone through his “reborn again” period cleaning himself from old sins and trying to prove himself as the man above petit politics. Known for his social life and his ex-girlfriend he tried hard to transform into a family man fulfilling stereotypes. The sad thing is that most Finns feel that they owe him their vote since they literally buried him the last two times he tried to elect for president.

Apart from that and this is very serious, there is a lot of talk the last few years about the presidential powers in Finland – based in the cold war era the Finnish president has certain powers that often contradict or overwhelm the elected government’s powers and decisions having the final word in the decisions – and Niinistö is the man who will not change everything and change is something Finns don’t favour that’s why Niinistö makes a excellent champion.

Of course we all have to wait for Sunday results and even though Finns don’t like surprises – just like they don’t like change – you just …never know they might this time hear except limit their sense to what they want to see.

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