So the local elections are done in Finland. It was fantastic to see many of my friends getting through. They all deserve it. Congratulations to Elina, Laura K, Mari, Laura R, Ville and Nanna. Helsinki seems to be in good hands.
The centre-right party National Coalition (Kokoomus) is the winner of the elections being for the first time in Finland´s history the biggest party on the municipal level nation-wide. They even managed to pass the Social Democrats in Vantaa, a traditionally strongly leftish city next to Helsinki. Kokoomus is growing its alliance amongst Finns, which I hope means moving even more strongly towards liberalism also socially.
The Greens beat the Social Democrats with clear numbers in Helsinki and became only for the second time in history the second biggest party of the capital. I hope this means more investments in services, in public transport and urban planning. Traffic policy is the big issue where Kokoomus and the Greens will most likely be bolstering their muscles against each other in the course of the next four years.
Nationally the biggest winner of the elections is the populist True Finns growing their seat number nationally with 336 seats. They have clearly marked their place as a serious contestant for the votes of the working class and the unemployed with a xenophobic message. This truly worries me even if one could seek for some consolation from the fact that the rise of the populist right is a pan-European phenomenon. I understand the fear of insecurity that the True Finns tap into but in times like these we really see what kind of a wonderful safety net the EU and the euro are for us. The responsibility of the other parties is not to ignore the True Finns but to take them on their message and reveal the weakness of their rhetoric. It is however yet difficult to make any prognosis what their support will result to apart from offensive language.
The Social Democrats came down in the elections with rocket speed. Their populism did not work in this economic situation with factories being closed down across the country. I feel most Finns understand that it is time to save, not to demand more for free. Only in Helsinki they lost nearly 12.000 votes mostly going to the Greens and True Finns. The fall especially in Helsinki was harder than anyone expected. It only continues the long list of evidence on the crisis of European Left. Chairperson Urpilainen´s strategy of claiming her party to be part of the centre can be questioned - at least the voters were not energised by it. Taking the position of the conservative and stubborn defender of the Nordic welfare state (which they claim to be their creation) is not a very aspirational campaign message.
In other parts of the country the results also show difficulties for the Centre Party, traditionally the biggest party on local level and also in the last parliament elections. The success of Kokoomus is mostly due to the problems of the Centre Party. The position of Prime Minister Vanhanen as the party leader is significantly weakened for instance by the poor results in Lapland - Centre Party lost there 8 % of their votes from 2004 meaning over 6 000 votes. It is interesting to see how the price of being in government is only paid in these elections by the Centre Party.
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