European / Finland. Even in the North, extremes win
SPECIAL ELECTIONS EUROPEAN / FINLAND. The narrow victory of social democrats, the crisis of traditional parties and the success of radical forces.
The European elections in May are approaching. A crucial appointment for the future of Europe. The traditional center-right and center-left political forces must face the advance of sovereignists, populists and Eurosceptics.
Please, forget the word “stability” immediately. Even in Finland, politics is experiencing a stormy period, as witnessed by the elections on April 14th. Elections that have seen the victory of the Social Democrats, resurrected from their own ashes, but above all have marked the great crisis of traditional parties. As happens everywhere in Europe, the center-right and the center are in enormous difficulty. The True Finns, a party defined according to who speaks populist, sovranistist, eurosceptic, eurofobic or extreme right, has reached a handful of votes (0.2%) from the electoral victory.
EUROPEAN ELECTIONS, FINLAND: THE PROTAGONISTS OF THE VOTE / The narrow victory of the Social Democrats; the boom of the sovereign right and the environmentalist, the suffering of traditional parties.
The approach to the European elections will be conditioned in Finland by the consultations just begun for the formation of the new government. The guide should be the Social Democrats of Antti Rinne; who returned to victory after the historic debacle of the 2015 elections. In fact, the center-left won by gaining only 1 percentage point compared to four years earlier; when 16.5% had been hailed as a historical meltdown. A sign that more than a renaissance, victory comes from a new electoral fragmentation and above all from the crisis of historical parties.
Former Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s Finnish Center Party; who resigned in recent months after the rejection of his health reform, collapsed below 14%. On the podium, on the other hand; the conservative Kokoomus party of former Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, the bearer of a very strict fiscal policy, rose. The real success was that of the True Finns of Jussi Halla-aho, allies of the League of Matteo Salvini within the so-called sovereign axis in view of the European elections in May.
A success, that of the True Finns, dictated by the unscrupulous use of anti-migrant sentiments. But not only.
Significantly, if one considers the rise of the environmental movement in neighboring Sweden; the Halla-aho party has focused heavily on the no to fight climate change. An environmental issue, particularly felt in a country geographically within the Arctic sphere. If the majority of the parties have collected, at least in part, the environmental issues; the True Finns have instead criticized measures that in their way of seeing risk damaging Finnish companies by inviting them to relocate; presenting themselves as defenders of the working classes.
As the big parties suffer, the forces perceived as anti-establishment grow. Not only the True Finns but also the Greens and the Left Alliance, both up sharply compared to the 2015 elections. The two left-wing parties have distinguished themselves from the Social-Democrats; on many issues still mired in the middle; have intercepted not only the environmental soul but also some instances in terms of economic policy; such as the opposition of part of the electorate to the liberalization measures of the labor market and those of containment of public spending.
EUROPEAN ELECTIONS, FINLAND: THE TOPICS OF VOTE.
Difficult negotiations to form the new government, the rhetoric on migrants and the divided economic agenda of the Social Democrats.
By force of circumstances the approach to the European vote will be characterized by discussions on the formation of the new executive.
The impression is that the social democrats of Rinne are oriented to a great coalition with the center parties to keep out the True Finns; who could exploit this argument during the European election campaign; claiming to be kept out of maneuvers despite having arrived seconds only for 0.2%.
Rinne must inevitably expand the alliance beyond the Greens and the Left Alliance to have sufficient numbers to govern and attention should focus on Sipila’s or Orpo’s party.
At the heart of the issues that will decide the consultations there will be precisely the fight against climate change; a subject in which Rinne, a member of the left wing of the Social Democrats; is trying to forcefully take control. There will also be a lot of talk about economic policy. Rinne promises more money to pensioners, new measures on the tax front and against unemployment and education. In short, a return to welfare that was weakened during the Sipila executive. It is precisely on the economic agenda that an unbridgeable gap between social democrats and center-right could be created.
A furrow instead unbridgeable in the field of migrants with the True Finns; whose nationalist rhetoric has made its breakthrough especially in the province. The promise of the Halla-aho party is to bring the reception of refugees “almost to zero”. Whatever the composition of the government it is instead difficult to set aside the focus on innovation; of which Helsinki has become the protagonist in recent years; focusing on digital and artificial intelligence to revive an economy that has experienced a long contraction from 2007 to 2014; and that since 2015 it has recovered stabilizing between 2 and 3% in the last two years.
EUROPEAN ELECTIONS, FINLAND: THE GEOPOLITIC AGENDA / Neutrality, great mediation between the USA and Russia, the Europeanist and Baltic line.
The peculiarity of Finnish foreign policy is that it is the responsibility of the President of the Republic “in cooperation with the government”; which actually maintains exclusive competence in the policies of the European Union. The head of state, on the other hand, has greater decision-making power at the macro and geopolitical level.
The current president is Sauli Niinistö, a member of the National Coalition party; whose second six-year term began in January 2018.
Like neighboring Sweden, Finland also has a traditionally neutral and non-aligned foreign policy. Compared to Stockholm, Helsinki’s narrowest geopolitical partner, however, maintains a more open dialogue with Moscow. Recently the president declared that he sees no threats from Russia.
A fact that has led Finland to stand as a great mediator between the United States and Russia, as demonstrated by the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, held in Helsinki in July 2018. On the other hand, in recent years the commercial interchange between Finland and Russia is on the rise.
The line of the Finnish executive is traditionally strongly European, with the strengthening of the EU, also in digital matters, which is considered indispensable by a country that is geographically exposed to the great regional powers such as Moscow.
At the same time Finland is moving with great determination in the Baltic area trying to promote a strong “Nordic” axis.
The theme of a possible NATO membership has also entered the Finnish debate, which in any case does not represent a current priority for a country that tries to carve out an intermediary role between global powers.
Meanwhile, something is also moving with China. Recently the Chinese fund Touchstone has signed a 15 billion euro agreement with the construction company FinEstBayArea to build a submarine railway tunnel that will connect Helsinki to the capital of Estonia, Tallinn.
A large-scale infrastructure project that shows how Beijing is also active in the Baltic area but at the same time worries Russia; which does not look favorably on the logistics of the Baltic countries.
EUROPEAN ELECTIONS, FINLAND: THE LATEST POLLS.
The results of the parliamentary elections of April 14: the Social Democrats win by a whisker, the radical right second of a breath, the center collapses.
Finland currently has 13 seats in the European Parliament, which should have become 14 with Brexit. If the United Kingdom were to participate in the European elections in May, the Finnish seats would remain 13.
Social Democratic Party (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) 17.7%
True Finns (European Conservatives and Reformists) 17.5%
National coalition party (EPP) 15%
Finnish Center Party (ALDE) 13.8%
Verdi (European Greens) 11.5%
Left Alliance (European United Left) 8.2%
Read more about elections Finland here.