The party assortment offered to the voter is peculiar to this country. The political practice here has always had this characteristic: the party represents a group of people, not necessarily an ideology. Many Western countries have a Conservative party and a Liberal party, of which the latter is invariably leftist. Not so with Finland. I will elaborate this in the list below. There is some background needed to understand the "technical part" of the state of the affairs, which I'll show here.
The voting system was designed with the idea of a political party in mind. A political party is a registered association that competes for parliament seats. A minimum of 5000 members is needed, and in order to keep the status of a party, the party has to secure a seat within two rounds of parliamentary elections. Without the status, it is not eligible for party subsidy in the parliament, and it needs 20000 members to back up a presidential candidate. A party is usually active at all times, not just the elections, which is part of the justification for party subsidy. The foundation of the party, the "societies" in cities, is referred as the "field" as opposed to the party leadership. The societies may have activities completely unrelated to their party status.
In all but presidential elections, the d'Hondt formula is used. Effectively the voter gives his vote primarily for a party and secondarily for a single candidate. The votes are counted for each party, and then each candidate gets a "comparison score", which is:
votes for party
cs = ---------------------------
rank of popularity in party
The most popular candidate of the party receives the score of number of votes given to his party, the second-most popular candidate receives half of this, the third receives one-third as his score and so on. When the scores have been calculated, they are aggregated and sorted. The list is cut off at the number of seats and there we have the new city council
, regional representation in the parliament
, or Finland's contribution to the European Parliament
. If someone resigns, the next candidate of his party replaces him. An election coalition
means that two parties will be counted as if they were one.
Cabinets ("governments") are appointed only formally by the president nowadays. By the constitution, the entire cabinet and each minister has to enjoy "the trust of the parliament". In practice today, this means that the cabinet is lead by the most popular party. The second one in popularity is its coalition partner and smaller parties might or might not get a chance. (The exception for this rule of thumb is the Swedish party, which sneaks in to each cabinet.)
The good part of this, at least compared to "winner-take-all", is that the system makes more than two parties inevitable. The fact that smaller parties can make coalitions with bigger parties encourages experimentation with new kinds of parties. The bad part is that a setting of three big and an ever-changing list of small, uninfluential parties has been the stable state.
So, here's the list of the parties, ranked in an approximated order of prominence. The popularity percent figure is calculated from the number of seats in the national parliament. I have deliberately left out the "failed experiments", which are very small, unpopular parties without seats.
Social Democratic Party of Finland, Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue, sos./SDP. (26.5%)
Usually the biggest of the big three, SDP as a party was established for the first parliament of Finland. Formally, its goal is to establish a socialist state by democratic means. In practice, they have been left with the role of a opinionless "state tender", supporting the structure of the welfare state. Their policy depends on the coalition partner (and the time of history). For example, for two 4-year terms, the cabinet was run by a right-leaning Social Democrats and the National Coalition. Very Coalition-like policy ensued. In this term, the winner is the Centre, and SDP's left wing is the partner, which results in populist or socialist governmental conduct.
SDP is backed by the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, which collects workers in amis-based vocations. The problem with this party, which is connected to the Union connections, is that the party and the system are growing old. Literally. In the last elections, the average age of the candidates was well over fifty. Young people are disinterested in the party and its policy is based on the ideas of late middle-aged people. It has no "big opinions", isn't Green, and its only strong points are its dependability, familiarity and strong union connections. Their ad campaigns don't convey any opinions or clear messages for that matter.
Centre Party of Finland, Suomen Keskusta, kesk./kepu (27.5%)
Kepu is one of the original parliamentary parties, a center-right, rather conservative party. This party explains why short-lived protest lists and populist parties usually die out without leaving a lasting mark. Kepu was founded as a Agrarian Party (Maalaisliitto) and stays as such, even if they changed the name and tried to appear modern. It leaves also wondering why it hasn't gone the way of the dinosaurs yet, because farmers constitute around 6% of the total population. One explanation is "little dirt between the toes" in suburban people. Fear of "excess urbanization" might be another one.
In the rhetoric, Kepu is clearly right-wing with an anti-immigrant and "tough on crime" stance, but supports leftist issues such as progressive taxation, welfare payments, and government subsidies, and is profoundly anti-intellectual. None of this is particularly important, however. The only things they actually care about are these two: "regional politics", as opposed to development of the cities, and farming. "Regional politics" as by Kepu means that urban areas are discriminated in state-level budgeting. However, those issues are not beyond discussion either: the party officially supported EU membership, which placed the farming subsidies under EU control.
And let's reiterate on the regional politics: one form of this policy is to move essential state functions, such as government agency headquarters, from the capital Helsinki to small Kepu-dominated cities around the country. The employees will not generally move from Helsinki, not at least en masse. So, suddenly there are state-paid jobs in the small cities, conveniently for the Kepu supporters.
Kepu is not a party, it's a pressure group. It's no stranger to unashamed populism and horse trade, in which they excel at. It has no internationally recognized ideology. Its inclusion in the Liberal group in the European parliament (EP) is simply blatant fraud, as the average Kepu member is intolerant, statist and conservative. They disagree on every point with the EP Liberal group.
Unfortunately, they are the current government leaders. A grey public servant type, Mr. Matti Vanhanen from Kepu, is the prime minister. He is basically a state tender. He was promoted when his precedessor, Mrs. Anneli Jäätteenmäki was smoked out in the so-called "Irakgate" scandal, where Jäätteenmäki got caught from a blatant lie to the people and the parliament. (On the other hand, her political argument was that Prime Minister Lipponen of SDP authorized selling weapons systems to the United States, a country preparing for war. Selling weapons to belligerent countries is illegal under international law. So who was evil, take you pick.)
If this still doesn't make sense, and seems inconsistent and somehow broken, consider this: what kind of political opinions you would predict for the population in the lower half of the Bell curve of intelligence?
National Coalition, Kansallinen Kokoomus, kok. (20.5%)
The National Coalition (or Assembly) is a "liberal conservative" party, one of the original parliamentary parties. Its traditional values are "Home, religion and fatherland". Its main supporter groups are the entrepreneurs, engineers, officers, teachers and other university-educated people. The "petty bourgeois" and "blue-white capitalist" images are associated with this party. Coalition consistently supports small and middle-sized enterprises, tax cuts, nuclear power and funding of scientific and technological development. The official policy includes support of joining NATO.
Coalition gathers both liberal and conservative people, and so it doesn't have the same uniform front as Kepu and SDP have. Consequently, Coalition's success depends heavily on competent, strong leaders. Its field has never been as strong as in Kepu or SDP. Fortunately, Finns are comparatively patriotic and authoritarian-minded (much like Americans), so strong leaders are supported. If they are unavailable, this party is in trouble.
For example, Mr. Sauli Niinistö was the party leader. He did his job as a Minister of Finance very well, keeping a consistent policy of paying back the national debt and earning the largest number of personal votes in the parliamentary election. Now, the presidential elections came. Niinistö was unsure about running for president. He didn't state his opinion on the candidacy until it was way too late. Kokoomus was left with an inferior choice, Mrs. Riitta Uosukainen. They lost. Niinistö left the party for a position in the European Investment Bank, leaving Mr. Ville Itälä, who profiled himself with "soft values", as a party leader. On Itälä's term, Coalition's support in polls took a direction toward decline. Itälä attempted a "coup" within the party by trying to get the parliamentary group leader Ben Zyskowicz sidelined, failed, and resigned. I really hope that the new leader, Jyrki Katainen, provides sufficient leadership. His term has been positive so far. This time, or 2006, Niinistö ran for presidency, and received one fourth of votes on the first round, but managed to gather so much support that the incumbent president Halonen of SDP, previously sporting 95% approval ratings, won only by a 3.6-percent margin (51.8%).
Leftist Alliance, Vasemmistoliitto, vas. (9.5%)
The problem with Communists is that when the entire society is to be controlled by the state, there remains the problem of how it's controlled. When the Communist party was legalised after the Continuation War, it was in constant internal disagreement over everything. Its structure was somewhat layered or jumbled. The SKDL (People's Democratic Alliance) was the parent organisation. There was a faction of Taisto Sinisalo, and there were more right-wing revisionists. As a part of SKDL, there was SKP (Communist Party), consisting of the "Soviet communists". Its inner circle were the most "flaming communists" there were. There was the Finland-Soviet Union Society, which officially promoted "friendship" between the nations.
Before and when the Soviet Union fell, the Communists lost support, becoming a "small party", when they had even won some elections before. The most flaming communists died or got older and their views went more moderate. Currently, they go for the populist "for the children" rhetoric. They oppose nuclear power. The party leader Suvi-Anne Siimes has stated that she was never "any sort of a socialist". (Very small "true Communist" parties were founded and they're there today, but they haven't got a single parliamentary seat as yet.)
Greens, Vihreät, vihr. (7%)
Unlike many other countries, the Finnish Green party is centered only on the "green" issues, and as such it's not a leftist party. They focus on protection of the environment and human rights, so the ideals are high. They do provide a important viewpoint to the otherwise stale Finnish politics, but as with all parties, "getting old" is a problem with them, too. The "old generation" Greens are traditional friends of nature, the "new generation" Greens can be either that, or radicalist and support all kinds of illegal action and leftist views. For example, two prominent candidates, Markus Drake and now an MP, Rosa Meriläinen got into trouble with smoking pot.
They oppose fur farming, nuclear power and development of genetic engineering, just like any self-respecting anti-progress party would. That is, ideals are great, but the methods aren't. For example, the finances of the city of Helsinki are messed up, thanks to Green government. On the good side, they oppose software patents and human rights violations. Some of their members of parliament are scarily competent; the late Mr. Matti Wuori, a well-known human rights lawyer, was a good example.
Swedish People's Party, Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue, rkp (Finnish), Svenska folkpartiet, sfp (Swedish) (4.5%)
Like Kepu, this is not a party, but a pressure group. RKP is very good in making compromises, because it has only one interest, that is, the rights of the minority of the Swedish-speaking (Finland Swedes). Government coalitions are based on agreement on some central issues, and RKP agrees with anyone, if it helps them to get into power. Fortunately, the Swedish-speaking typically lean to the right.
They debate many issues internally, and then the decision is shown to the outside world. This is a killer in small, mostly Swedish-speaking cities, where the city council can be over half RKP. They make some decision in their own meeting, and then attempt to force it through. Sometimes it doesn't work, and disappointed "but we AGREED" statements can be heard in the RKP's ranks.
They promote compulsory Swedish in schools (noded in pakkoruotsi).
Christian Democrats, Kristillisdemokraatit, krist. (3%)
Even thought the Arch Bishop opposed the founding of this small party in the 1980's, it was established anyway. This is a populist party, which uses the "for the children" rhetoric a lot. "Human values" is their election slogan. Anti-abortionists and those with an anti-gay agenda gather to this party. The node "International gay conspiracy" explains the mindset well.
True Finns, Perussuomalaiset, perus. (1.5%)
Back in the day when Kepu was still the Agrarian Union, they had a vocal politician, Mr. Veikko Vennamo. When Vennamo got in too much of an argument with his party in 1959, he decided to start his own party, "The party of countryside" (Suomen Maaseudun Puolue, SMP). Thanks to Vennamo's vocal presentation and bad attitude, this little party managed to stay afloat for an anomalously long time. In the middle of the 1990's, the party filed for bankruptcy. However, the most active members started a new party, the True Finns, which hasn't expired as yet. One reason for their perseverence is that they gather the votes of the Laestadians, a pious sect of Lutheranism.
The party supports the traditional right-wing nationalistic values. As the National Coalition is Euro-positive, the True Finns oppose the European Union and immigration. One of their representatives in the parliament is Tony Halme, a wrestler and a boxer best described in his node.
Liberal Party, Liberaalit, lib. (no seats)
Before the World War II, the precedessor of this party was a major player. Since then, its popularity declined steadily. One reason was that it was associated with Kepu. Its registration was removed once, because it failed to get a single seat in two consecutive elections. They speak for freedom of all kinds, for example, abolition of forced Swedish in schools, and some even speak against conscription. Their basic argument is that "the state shouldn't". In English, "Libertarian" would be more descriptive.
Tottakai se on täynnä mielipiteitä. Ei kukaan mielipiteetöntä mössöä lue. Kirjoita oma versiosi alle tai omaan noodiinsa, jos haluat tuoda jonkin toisen näkökannan esille.
- True Finns' home page: http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/
- Youth Liberals' election statement: http://www.geocities.com/nuorliberaalit/2003/vaalijulistus.htm