Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue

‘Iso Jytky’ reloaded?

The results for the 2015 Finnish parliamentary elections are now preliminarily available (a vote re-recount is underway, but no changes are expected to happen). In the table below, the elections results are compared to the previous elections in 2011, and to the latest opinion polls (HS/TNS Gallup – 14 April 2015; YLE/Taloustukimus – 16 April 2015).

Party Election results (April 2011) (%) Opinion poll (HS/

TNS Gallup)

(14 April 2015) (%)

Opinion poll (YLE/

Taloustutkimus)

(16 April 2015) (%)

Election results (April 2015) (% change) Seats in Parliament (Eduskunta/ Riksdagen) (seat change)
National Coalition Party (Kok/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet/ Saml) 20.4 17 16.9 18.2

(-2.2)

37

(-7)

Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP/ Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti) 19.1 17 15.1 16.5

(-2.6)

34

(-8)

(True) Finns (Party) (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ SF) 19.1 16.2 16.7 17.6

(-1.5)

38

(-1)

Cetre Party (Kesk/ Suomen Keskusta/ Centern i Finland/ C) 15.8 23 24.0 21.1

(+5.3)

49

(+14)

Left Alliance (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet/ Vf) 8.1 8.5 8.3 7.1

(-1.0)

12

(-2)

Green League (Vihr/ Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet/ Grö) 7.2 8.1 8.8 8.5

(+1.3)

15

(+5)

Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP) 4.3 4.6 4.6 4.9

(+0.6)

9+1

(0)

Christian Democrats (KD/ Kristillisdemokraatit/ Kristdemokraterna) 4.0 3.7 3.5 3.5

(-0.5)

5

(-1)

A few preliminary conclusions in the aftermath of the 2015 Finnish parliamentary elections:

1) The next Finnish PM will most probably be Juha Sipilä (Kesk/ C).He is a former businessman and entrepreneur and was elected party leader as late as 2012 albeit having been a MEP only since 2011. Sipilä is member of the Word of Peace (Rauhan Sana), a Christian Lutheran Laestadian group, which is known for its opposition to same-sex unions, the ordination of women priests, and opposition to abortion and euthanasia (in Finnish, tässä). It remains to be seen how these elements will be reflected in the coming political agenda.

2) The coming parliament (Eduskunta/ Riksdagen) (with a total of 200 MPs) is going to be dominated by native Finnish middle-aged men (117 MPs), whilst the number of women decreases during this parliamentary cycle (only 83 MPs) (in English, here). In addition, most party leaders are men (with only the exception of Päivi Räsänen, chairperson of the Christian conservative KD). The breakdown according to party affiliation is as follows: the Kesk/ C has only 14 women MPs out of total of 49 (thus, only 28.6% women among the party’s MPs); the PS/ SF has only 12 women MPs out of 38 (31.6%); the Kok/ Saml has 16 women MPs out of 37 (43.3%); the SDP has 21 women MPs out of 34 (61.8%), thus more than half with a good margin of the total number of MPs; the Vihr/ Grön has 7 women MPs out of 15 MPs (46.7%); the Vas/ VF has 7 women MPs out of a total of 12 MPs (58.3%); the SFP/ RKP has also regressed with only 3 women MPs out of 9 + 1 MPs (the extra is representing the Åland constituency) (30%); the KD has 3 women MPs out of a total of 5 MPs (60%). Interestingly enough, it is the progressive left (both the social-democratic SDP and the left Vas/ VF) and the Christian conservative KD that have women representing more than half of their total number of MPs. The most significant difference is to be found among the agrarian-liberal Kesk/ C with not even a third women MPs, and the populist radical right PS/SF with just below a third women MPs.

3) The populist radical right consolidates its inroads into mainstream politics. Although the party records a slight setback (-1.5%) and loses 1 MP, it is confirmed among the larger parties in Finnish politics, even becoming second largest party in the coming parliamentary cycle. So in a way, chairman Timo Soini could claim that this is a ‘iso jytky’ (in English, something like ‘a big thing/event’) of sorts.  Indeed, it seems that nostalgic agrarian-populism combined with thinly veiled xenophobia and populist homophobia is a well-received electoral concoction among Finnish voters. Two illustrative cases: Teuvo Hakkarainen, also known as the ‘apostle of genuineness’ – for his outright xenophobic and anti-LGBTQI remarks and modern reinterpretation of the infamous Madagascar plan – and the originator on Twitter of the Swedish language hashtag #snoppselfie (in English something along the lines of ‘#willieselfie’) as well as the (somewhat) tamer equivalent in Finnish #kikkelikuva (in English, something like ‘#williepic’) (I have discussed these at length in two previous blog entries, here and here) – for his unrestrained machistic courting strategies, bombing women with unsolicited pictures of his penis. Hakkarainen was reelected, and even enjoyed an increase in electoral support. The other example is Maria Tolppanen, who argued she would ‘scream with joy’ if in her constituency in Vaasa/Vasa would be ‘fewer mamu (derogatory Finnish term for migrants) and instead ‘more people (humans)’ enjoying the city square. Criticism of her barely disguised xenophobia was dismissed by usual means (a misplaced punctuation mark) (the topic was analyzed on Migrant tales, here).

4) For the first time, there are two (2) MPs of non-European migrant background. For Finnish politics this is something of a first. It may sound little, but for long Finland had only 1 MP of non-Finnish migrant background (Elisabeth Nauclér, from Sweden, representing Åland constituency), and a few of a mixed Finnish – non-Finnish background, such as Jani Toivola (Vihr/ Grön); and Ben Zyskowicz (Kok/ Saml). Now there are two MPs, Nasima Razmyar (SDP), a woman with roots in Afganistan; and Ozan Yanar (Vihr/Grö), a man with roots in Turkey (in English, here). Both of them got elected in the capital Helsinki/ Helsingfors constituency.

At the moment, a lot of speculations concern the cabinet negotiations, particularly if the PS/ SF is going to join the coming governmental formula. What kind of ‘iso jytky’ and for whom remains to be seen in the coming 4 years.

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Monday, April 20th, 2015 Research No Comments

Gazing into the Abyss? The Finnish Parliamentary Elections 2015

On Sunday 19 April 2015 in Finland are scheduled elections for the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta/ Riksdagen). Four years ago, in April 2011, the (True) Finns (Party) (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ SF) took Finnish politics by storm polling 19.05% of the votes, consequently increasing its parliamentary presence to 39 members of parliament (MPs) from the previously modest 5 MPs in the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen. Then, the PS/ SF skilfully combined anti-establishment and anti-EU appeals with thinly veiled xenophobic and racist stances. The PS/ SF actively chose a comfortable place on the opposition benches, from where its MPs could constantly criticize the various governmental efforts to navigate through the unfolding economic crisis, without the need to provide clear and feasible policy alternatives. At the same time, the competition between the ‘old’ agrarian populist guard around the PS/ SF chair Timo Soini and the ‘upcoming’ anti-immigration wing coalescing around such controversial figures as Jussi Halla-Aho (now one of the party’s MEPs in Brussels) and Olli Immonen appears to have sharpened. Tellingly, the PS/ SF 2015 election programme indicates, besides the imperative to defend the fatherland and strengthen further the status of Finnish language – an appeal that echoes familiar and comforting even to the moderately nationalist supporters – the need to address the existing Finnish migration policy, which is deemed too permissive and miscalibrated, and enforce a more clearly assimilative stance – an appeal unmistakably aimed to consolidate the party’s hold on the more radical voters.

The PS/ SF electoral strategy seems to have consolidated the party’s position among the 4 largest political parties in Finland. However, the opinion polls suggest the PS/ SF does not enjoy the same level of support as in the 2011 Finnish parliamentary elections and  that it has stagnated around the same level of support as in the 2014 European parliamentary elections (when the PS/ SF polled some 12.87%), hovering around 16%. This notwithstanding, the competition is still open to the PS/SF to qualify as the country’s second largest party, a trend indicated by the latest opinion polls. Indeed, the PS/ SF received some 16.2 to 16.7% in the latest opinion polls (HS/TNS Gallup, respectively YLE/Taloustukimus) whilst the largest party in the present cabinet coalition, the conservative National Coalition Party (Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Kok/ Samlingspartiet/ Saml) polled between 16.9 and 17% and the Finnish Social-Democrats (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ SDP/ Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti) show signs of wear-off after being the second largest party in the cabinet, swinging between 15.1 to 17% in the same polls.

Party Election results (April 2011) Opinion poll (HS/TNS Gallup)

(14 April 2015)

Opinion poll (YLE/Taloustutkimus)

(16 April 2015)

Election results (19 April 2015)
National Coalition Party (Kok/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet/ Saml) 20.44 17 16.9
Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP/ Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti) 19.15 17 15.1
(True) Finns (Party) (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ SF) 19.10 16.2 16.7
Cetre Party (Kesk/ Suomen Keskusta/ Centern i Finland/ C) 15.80 23 24.0
Left Alliance (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet/ Vf) 8.15 8.5 8.3
Green League (Vihr/ Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet/ G) 7.27 8.1 8.8
Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP) 4.29 4.6 4.6
Christian Democrats (KD/ Kristillisdemokraatit/ Kristdemokraterna) 4.04 3.7 3.5

A lot of speculation in the eve of elections concentrates on the possible cabinet constellations that the most likely elections victors, the Cetre Party (Kesk/ Suomen Keskusta/ Centern i Finland/ C) will attempt to construct. At the moment most likely scenarios consider if the Kesk/ C will pursue a so-called or red-earth cabinet coalition (punamulta/ rödmylla) with the SDP, or a right leaning governmental coalition with what seems to be the election’s main losers, the Kok/ Saml of PM Alexander Stubb. None of these two cabinet constellations will be sufficiently solid, and the question remains if the Kesk/ C will turn to the PS/ SF as a third coalition partner or opt for the traditionally Finnish model of cabinets with surplus parties? A word of caution, however, comes from further afield. In Hungary, the populist radical right Hungarian Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik/ Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom) has won the by-elections in the Tapolca-Ajka-Sümeg district on 12 April. The victory of the Jobbik representative in front of the conservatives’ candidate of PM Viktor Orbán in these by-elections are indicated as evidence that formally distancing from the populist radical right, whilst co-opting its strategies is a losing game.

With this in mind, returning to the post-election political landscape in Finland, one can wonder how are the cabinet negotiations going to unfold, if the Kesk/ C is indeed to be confirmed as the largest party in the upcoming elections Sunday 19 April? Will the SDP be willing to erode further is electoral base and to form the backbone of a red-earth government together with the Kesk/ C? Is the Kesk/ C going to seriously pursue a governmental constellation with the PS/ SF? At what costs, considering that both the Left Alliance (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet/ Vf) and the Greens (Vihr/ Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet/ G) have articulated a clear anti-xenophobic and anti-racist alternative? What will happen to Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP), given the fact that the party managed to be in all governments since 1979? Will the SFP/ RKP accept partaking in a governing coalition together with the PS/ SF, despite their outspoken stance against Finland’s bilingualism and the vitrolic attacks agains the Swedish-speakers by the various PS/ SF rank and file? Above all, considering the rather bleak economic perspectives that Finland is facing, how much of the nativist and xenophobic rhetoric of the PS/ SF is going to be tolerated at the negotiation table?

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Friday, April 17th, 2015 Research No Comments

(Internet) Hate Speech and the Issue of Finnish National Purity: A Gender Perspective

Finland has stereotypically been considered to be an example of Nordic consensus culture. For long internet hate and hate speech in general have rarely been discussed in the open in Finland, in public debates, and even rarer have been the cases in which several people would stand up and confess to being subject to hateful email and death threats.

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back came on Monday 27 May 2013 in the form of an e-mail addressed to Bettina Sågbom, well known Finnish Swedish-speaking journalist and presenter working for the state television YLE. The e-mail contained death threats targeting Sågbom and her family; the e-mail was followed by several other messages in the same register the following day. Sågbom chose to finally break the silence and made public the threats, raising the issue of internet hate but also connecting the rather abstract discussions that have taken place so far with a well-known public figure. In response, she received a subsequent threat in which she was warned she would die in circumstances made to resemble an accident (in English, here; in Swedish, här). Sågbom received the death threats because she has allegedly presented an eschewed picture about the status of Swedish language in Finland. The message contained also a demand that Sågbom invite to her TV-show a representative of the Association of Finnish Culture and Identity (Suomalaisuuden Liitto/ Finskhetsförbundet) to discuss the topic of oppression and linguistic repression that the Finnish-speakers were subject to during the time Finland was part of the Swedish realm. The said association has close ties to the radical right populist party in Finland, the (True) Finns (Party) (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ SF), being chaired by Sampo Terho, who is a Finnish MEP on the PS/SF mandate.

But Sågbom is far from being the only person to have received such hate mail with such a precise request. Paula Salovaara, managing editor of Helsingin Sanomat, the largest Finnish-language daily in Finland, has also admitted on a Tweet to having received death threats for taking a public stance in support of Swedish language as the second national language in Finland. In addition, Päivi Storgård, vice-chair of the Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP), has also made public that she has been target of hate messages, mentioning a recent incident in which she has been threatened with rape by a man in a telephone conversation (in Swedish, här). The Left Alliance MP Silvia Modig (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet) has later on confessed to having been harassed because of her publicly admitted homosexuality, and mentioned she had received e-mails containing dozens of pictures of male genitalia. Her conclusion was that her political convictions and the values she stands for have angered quite many, but she underlined she did not fear for her life. However, she is living now at a secret address, a direct result of the hate mails she has received (in Swedish, här).

A salutary reaction to the wave of hate speech flooding the web and pushing the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in public debates in Finland has been the  reaction of Helsingin Sanomat. The newspaper published in its internal news pages a bilingual section addressing the issue of hate speech in the public domain, containing interviews with PM Jyrki Katainen (Kok/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet/ Saml / The National Coalition Party) and police representatives, allocating equal space to both Finnish and Swedish (in Finnish/Swedish, tässä/här). Only towards the end of the week, on 31 May 2013, and after several demonstrations in support of the country’s bilingualism and against hate speeches, Terho has eventually distanced himself and the association he chairs from the hate messages (in Finnish, tässä).

The ongoing discussion about the need to denounce intimidation as a means to achieve certain political outcomes, while much needed, seems to be preoccupied with only one side of a multifaceted phenomenon. In my view, it is not only the language aspect that media, researchers and public figures alike should be paying attention to. Indeed the status of the Swedish language in Finland appears to have galvanized the wave of hateful reactions, but I would like to draw attention on the gender aspect that intersects the former, since the majority of those who have acknowledged to being subject to such intimidation are women, on both sides of the language divide but with an assumed commitment to defend bilingualism in Finland. So the questions that arise in this context concern the many aspects of purity, and how such purity – understood, it seems, in exclusionary language terms – may be instrumentally employed to discipline and punish those Finnish women – Finnish- and Swedish-speaking alike – that defend the country’s plural legacy and bilingualism? What place do threats of ‘corrective rape’ – both at the most physical but also at symbolic level – have in this effort to maintain national purity, and what are those mechanisms that justify them?

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Friday, May 31st, 2013 Research No Comments