A Comeback of Politics in the Finnish General Elections

The people of Finland have spoken: a landslide victory for the nationalist-traditionalist True Finns, who got 19 % of votes (+14.9 %) and 39 seats (+34) in the 200-seat parliament, while all the other parties were losers.   Who are the True Finns? First of all, they are a protest party against the old regime consisting

The people of Finland have spoken: a landslide victory for the nationalist-traditionalist True Finns, who got 19 % of votes (+14.9 %) and 39 seats (+34) in the 200-seat parliament, while all the other parties were losers. 

Who are the True Finns?

First of all, they are a protest party against the old regime consisting of the National Coalition Party, the Centre Party and the Social Democrats, which have in practice shared political power amongst themselves for the past 30 years. During this period, people have become increasingly disinterested in politics, which has manifested itself for example in the form of low election turnouts. These elections were, in a sense, a comeback of politics into politics.
The True Finns are conservative on the axis liberal-conservative, but at the same time more socially oriented than market-oriented. In fact, "True Finns" is not a proper translation from the Finnish original "Perussuomalaiset"; "Ordinary Finns" or "Basic Finns" would perhaps be more appropriate. However, at least some 6-8 outspokenly and boldly anti-migrant candidates got elected in their 39-member group.
The biggest loser is the prime minister’s Centre Party, down to 15.8 % (-7.3 %) and 35 seats (-16). The main explanation for this is the political corruption around the party which has been revealed during the past 2-3 years.
The Social Democrats lost less than expected since they managed to regain a more leftist public image for example by demanding haircuts also for financial institutions as a precondition of accepting more loan guarantees for the indebted Euro countries. This was accentuated also by the True Finns and the Left Alliance.
The most likely government combination will be the National Coalition party (prime minister), the True Finns and the Social Democrats. However, the negotiations will be relatively difficult since the policy line of these parties differs significantly for example in European issues and in taxation.
The Left Alliance suffered a defeat to 8.1 % (-0.7 %) and lost three seats, now having 14. This can be considered acceptable in a situation where also everyone else lost except the True Finns, and especially keeping in mind that an additional seat in the Uusimaa election district was only 122 votes away. However, these elections did not stop the slow but steady downward trend of the Left Alliance which has continued since the 1999 general elections.
 A positive result was that in the Helsinki election district the party advanced from 6.8 % to 10.4 %, the party president Paavo Arhinmäki gaining the biggest number of personal votes among all candidates of all parties in Helsinki (17 099 votes) and being a nationwide number four. Also in the Keski-Suomi district the party made progress from 7.4 % to 9 %. The new parliamentary group consists of eight men and six women, and six of the members are less than 40 years old. The general outlook of the group is more red-green than before.

The Left  

Then some additional remarks on the result of the Left. The party chair Paavo Arhinmäki is a very popular figure in the publicity, and succeeded well in the television debates before the elections. His personal charisma plus the debates were probably the biggest reason for not losing more than this. This is a good argument for electing him as the presidential candidate of the Left Alliance for the elections of January 2012.
Another significant trait in the result was that the composition of the new parliamentary group is, as noted above, much younger and more female-dominated than before. Many old party veterans did not candidate any longer and this can also be seen as contributing to the election defeat since a large share of their personal votes did not transfer to other candidates. Let us remind ourselves that the Finnish system is a list-based proportional system as in most European countries, but in the Finnish system one does not vote for the list but for a person on the list, which means that the voters determine the order of the candidates on the list, not the party.
Perhaps the ideologically most interesting feature of thise parties was the success of red-green transformators of the party. This was manifested especially in the Helsinki result, were both MPs belong to this ideological trend, but also for example in Pirkanmaa district a left-libertarian red-green female candidate got elected. The Helsinki district increased its significance inside the Left Alliance; the experiences in the capital on generating a new type of left party, more democratic, emancipatory, participatory and ecologicaly oriented, cannot be overlooked any longer. In terms of members the Left Alliance has got more than 800 new members during the past two weeks and the Helsinki district alone nearly 400.
The challenge is now to promote the transformation project of the party to the provinces and also outside university towns. Many districts with traditional blue-collar working class voter base are stagnating; in fact many of these turned from the Left Alliance to the True Finns in these elections. (Surprisingly though only very few of the elected MPs of the True Finns represent this group.) How to generate a unifying leftist-ecologist ideology that could serve as a base of a new type of class identification?
The Social Democrats came down 19.1 % (-2.3 %) and could not stop their downward slide either. This was the worst result of the party since 1962, but the 1962 result was explained by the split of the party; in fact, both the Left Alliance and the Social Democrats did worse than ever before. The Greens, part of whom belong to the left as well, came down to 7.2 % (-1.2 %). This can be explained by their gradual shift toward centre-right and participation in the centre-right government, resulting in their left and ecology wings leaking to the Left Alliance.
The Communist Party got 0.3 % of votes (-0.4 %), which pushed the party even further to the margin of the political system. In fact, communists have never succeeded in Finnish elections under the banner of communism; even in the height of history, the Communist Party operated inside a broader party, ie. the Finnish People’s Democratic League. 

The True Finns’ electors

The party has more than doubled its support during the past year and the support has become 4-fold during the past 2.5 years, so much precise data is not yet available.
However according to a survey from 2009, the supporters were 2/3 men, belonging to professional working class or small entrepreneurs, and having a biggest medium income after the supporters of the National Coalition Party and the Swedish People’s Party.
Now the picture might be different. By looking at election districts, the support of the True Finns in the 2011 elections is manyfold. On the one hand, in Helsinki, were they got "only" 13 % as compared to 19 % in the whole country, the support came largely from poorest suburbs and from migrant-dense areas. In Jakomäki polling stations, one of the poorest areas of Helsinki with high unemployment, the True Finns gained 35 % of votes. However, the fact is that in Helsinki there are far more migrants than in the rest of the country, and still the Helsinki result was worse for the True Finns than in many other districts of the country.
Especially in rural provinces and small municipalities the True Finns got a huge support, more than 20% as a rule. A large part of this is explained by the loss of the Centre Party, which is the traditional rural people’s party. But for example, in the Kymi election district with heavy paper industry, the True Finns got 23.3 % and gained votes also from the industrial-based Social Democrat and Left Alliance voters.
The overall results can be found from here in English: