Archive for October, 2008

In Search for an Evil Other: Finnish Local Elections in 2008

Basically, this is the very disturbing conclusion I reach following the news about the Finnish local elections this year. With all votes counted the statistics (link in English) say this:

1.The National Coalition Party (Kok)/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet (center-right): 23,4%

2. The Social Democratic Party (SDP)/ Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ Finlands socialdemokratiska parti (center-left): 21,2%

3. The Center Party (Kesk)/ Suomen Keskusta/ Centern i Finland (center): 20,1%

So these are the “3 Big” parties in Finland. In general, support for one of them spells disaster or major changes within the other two.Well, if we look at the remaining, or “minor” parties, then the pictures becomes more nuanced:

4. The Green League (G) (in the government coalition)/ Vihreät/ De Gröna (greens): 8,9%

5.  The Left Alliance (VL)/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet (left): 8,8%

and

6. The True Finns Party (PS)/ Perussuomalaiset/Sannfinländarna (populist): 5,4% and thus with a superior result to

7. The Swedish People’s Party (RKP/SFP)(in the government coalition)/ Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ Svenska folkpartiet (centrist language based): 4,7%

8. The Christian Democracts (KD)/Kristillisdemokraattit/ Kristdemokraterna (center-right): 4,2%

The winners of these elections are thought to be the Kok and PS. Kok has surprisingly turned from the junior partner in the government with Kesk and two  other “minor” parties (G and RKP/SFP) into the winner of the local elections with implications into the central political games. As such, there are comments that PM Vanhanen (Kesk) will not have a restful autumn. So far, so good, may say some, just another political competition won by the most persuasive.

On the other hand, PS made considerable gains from the previous elections (when it pooled only 0,9% of the votes), tapping on people’s dissatisfaction with mainstream politics. On a closer look the party has a strong anti-immigration (to put it mildly), anti-Swedish speaking (the famous pakkoruotsi/ mandatory Swedish), and commonly labeled as populist, Finnish nationalist, national conservative and so on. This means, in other words, that people are fed up with an explosive immigration (4,9%) and an all menacing Swedish speaking Finnish population (5,46%). If you do the math, there are virtually a bit over 10% of the total Finnish population endangering the rest of almost 90%. In which way, this is a bit unclear to me. What is interesting to note that such a menace has determined the Finnish voters to give their votes to PS.

An educated guess would be that from now on, an ever more suspicious, monocultural, exclusionary political agenda will be taking shape at community level. I am well aware that the asylum granted (68 in 2007, according to the same source as above) will drastically decrease. Those that dare to come to Finland in search for something better, well, they need to be prepared to assume the role of the Evil Other.

The Swedish speaking Finns are probably familiar with being the Enemy within, so they will do what they do best, becoming ever less visible and compromising and accommodating the radical political newcomers. That happening in a country that has bilingualism (Finnish and Swedish are official languages) stated in its Constitution.

A few days ago I was reading a piece about a visit of the Minister of Migration and European Affairs, Astrid Thors (RKP/SFP) to a hotel in a neighborhood in the capital, and taking over the tasks of a cleaner. Needless to say, most cleaners at the aforesaid hotel were of a foreign background. I was thinking of the symbolic putting together of those Others from outside (migrants) and from within (the Swedish speaking Finns), and frankly speaking they did not really look that menacing.

But then again, I was looking at them through the eyes of a foreigner, n’est pas?

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Monday, October 27th, 2008 Miscellaneous 3 Comments

When Finnish Masculinity Shows its Teeth

Sometimes I am amazed by the virulence of masculinist heteronormativity in Finland. I am well familiar with the impregnable steadfastness of the Finnish man, or the way media feeds people with this myth. Or is it like they say: patriarchy feeds insecurity so that to born more patriarchy?

In this case, the CEO of the Alma Media trust, Mr Kai Telanne, had a sudden change of mind. As such, he decided to cancel Mrs Johanna Korhonen’s appointment as the editor-in-chief for the Rovaniemi-based Lapin Kansa even before she started her job. Mrs Korhonen previously worked as the editor-in chief for Journalisti, the newspaper of the Finnish Union of Journalists.

Her sins allegedly are first that she lives in a registered partnership with another woman. And second, that her partner is politically involved. It appears that Alma Media suddenly discovered irregularities and dishonest remarks made by Korhonen during her job interview and thus decided it could not allow her to be at the helm of the news paper in northern Finland. According to Korhonen, the CEO offered to the already-dismissed-future-editor-in-chief a severance contract worth some EUR 100,000.

The English version of Helsingin Sanomat has a very different take on the issue- here- and reveals that political engagement cannot be a reason, since the spouse of another editor-in-chief of an Alma Media-owned newspaper is politically active at local level. This despite that Mr Telanne underlined the requirement of neutrality on behalf of the editors’ spouses. In a later article in Hufvudstadsbladet- här- Alma Media’s leadership evasively argues that there will be no consequences for the editor-in-chief (a man in this case) whose spouse (a woman) is involved in local politics. So then, why a woman who is in a registered partnership with another woman is punished for her partner’s involvement in politics? Is male-dominated business deciding who is allowed to be politically active in Finland? Will it allow lesbians, and other lgbt persons to do that?

A second comment comes from the acting editor-in-chief of Lapin Kansa, Heikki Tuomi-Nikula, in an interview given to YLE (see web article in Swedish här; Finnish link disabled). While being very critical to Mr Telanne arguing even for his resignation, he perplexed with another remark. Concerning Mrs Korhonen’s official coming out, he manifested his skepticism arguing that a lesbian editor-in-chief of a newspaper like Lapin Kansa will have a hard time to prove that she is not only representing the newspaper, but the whole Finnish Lapland.

Now I must confess I am very confused. So a middle-aged Finnish man can claim that during his work at the helm of a newspaper in Lapland- and he has been there since 1984- he has represented the whole region. A region with quite a diverse population, with both men and women, and most probably both heterosexuals and lgbt persons, to keep the dichotomy at a very simplistic level. So I am wondering how a middle-aged straight Finnish man can represent the whole (!!!) Finnish Lapland? And then what does a lesbian woman – otherwise a successful journalist and former editor-in-chief at some other newspaper- lack so that she cannot represent the aforementioned region? To my mind the notions of hyper-inflated masculinist pride are tightly connected to some sort of national northern messianism and give room to comments like the one above. Otherwise why would be a straight middle-aged man more representative than a lesbian woman?

I wonder what would happen if all lgbt people and their families and friends in Lapland would decided that Lapin Kansa’s present editor-in-chief no longer represents them and decide to stop buying the newspaper. How would Mr Tuomi-Nikkula solve this issue?

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Friday, October 3rd, 2008 Miscellaneous No Comments