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Live Blog: 2019 Finnish Election - Europe Elects

Some takeaways, SDP (S&D) dropped much more and Perussuomalaiset (ECR) rose somewhat more than I anticipated. Vihreät (G/EFA) were an overall lackluster compred to expectetations. Still, the winners of the elections are without a doubt SDP, Vihreät and Vasemmistoliitto (GUE/NGL), who all managed to increase their support compared to the 2015 elections.


by generic on Sun Apr 14th, 2019 at 10:00:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The dynamics of Finnish politics has changed with the rise of the far right True Finn party (PS), but old structures usually persist, so my guess would be that the rural Centre (Kesk) prefers to go into opposition. That leaves the conservative Kok and social democratic SDP as the possible coalition, and then would need to add at least the Greens, Vihre. That still leaves them short of a majority, but since PS is out, they can invite back in the Swedish minority party SFP.

The only other combination I see is Kesk+Kok+PS. That would be the same coalition as after last election, so it would seem reasonable. But the PS that entered the coalition after last election can now be found as Blue Reform (Sin), after a change in leadership and a party split in PS. After the split Blue Reform was formed from the parliamentarians loyal to the old leadership, and they continued in government. Given that, and the losses for Kesk and that SDP is the largest party, I think this coalition is less likely.

To me, the biggest surprise is how lousy Blue Reform performed. I thought the old leadership of PS would retain some support, but apparently brand name trumps everything.

by fjallstrom on Sun Apr 14th, 2019 at 11:30:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd say the actual shift in these elections was clear turn to left, although it's rather difficult to assess the degree of the turn. The most obvious sign is that the left-wing parties (Social Democrats and Left Coalition) gained seats. It was the first successful campaign for the Left Coalition in 25 years (their chairperson is the most popular Finnish politician). If one counts the Greens as leftist party (and the right-wing parties do!), the left gained 16 seats in the parliament. So there actually was a shift of 32 seats towards the left of political spectrum in a 200 seat parliament.

Now, the much difficult shift to gauge is the one internal for parties. During last night several talking heads in telly did mention that the Social Democrats were forced to move towards left during the campaign to gain traction in their own base. And at the same time the conservatives, Coalition Party, has been loosing ground in the local elections to the Green party and it could be their social liberal wing is gaining upper hand over their market liberal wing to respond to the threat from Greens.

A god example of this phenomenoma is the mayor of Helsinki, who represents the old guard of Coalition Party, but has gone all pro-LGTB and socially conscious conservative to collaborate with and stand ground against the Greens in Helsinki. The market liberal wing of Coalition Party hates him, since he had a big part in destroying their wet dream of privatizing health care by publicly opposing the policy and getting other big cities to oppose it too. Now, whether he's building his own base for possible presidency, or just honestly defending his city against idiots of his own party is anybody's guess. Anyway, last night Coalition Party leadership seemed to accept a future in opposition, where they may need to fight True Finns for spotlight. They do have the most loyal voter base, though.

While the Greens may have forced the center-right to move slightly towards center, it's difficult to say where they stand themselves. The party makes a lot of noise about being "above" the left-right divide. The group making most of the noise are mainly liberals who found a new home in Greens sometime in the early 90's. Somehow they managed capture the party leadership to the extend that many took the party as a "gardening division of the Coalition Party".

On the other hand, the Greens also have a wing that is aligned quite well with the Left Coalition, but that wing is slowly leaking into the Left Coalition, since that party is about as urbanite green as the Greens themselves. And yet, the base of the party probably is mostly center-left, and so seem to be the party's new members of parliament when skimming trough their personal alignments and stands (all medias in Finland invite all candidates to answer questionnaires that try define where they stand in different issues and electorate can then take the same quiz to find candidates that best correspond to their answers). Basically they seem to be against austerity and for equality in society, but don't really agree on how to get there.

The Center party was decimated, it was their worst performance in over 100 years, and it's quite obvious it was because they did lead the most right-wing government in Finland since 1920's. It seems that their base mostly stayed at home. The chairperson and former prime minister is both a somewhat randian and a devout christian (in a love thy neighbourgh way), so was very confused in his policies and was relatively easy for the Coalition Party to turn to the dark side. By taking the True Finns to his government he also managed to make racism and hate "allowed" in Finland, which most people find hard to forgive him and the Central Party.

The true True Finns (after a minor split to Blue Future, that basically disappeared in the election) managed to held onto their seats, even though many predicted their base to be absent. They remain the second biggest party in the parliament, but several other parties have already declared them to be unsuitable for collaboration. Considering that their main issue is migration policy based on the 2016 refugee masses that have completely disappeared, they really don't have anything there to offer except irrational fears that prevent any decent discussion about migration. They also don't believe in climate change, unlike all the other parties, so there's no common ground there, either. They are also mostly against Euro and EU...well, being populists, they are basically against things, so there's really no fertile ground to form a government program with them. Unless they are willing to lose a big chunk of their base in a collision with reality.

Finally the Social Democrats. It's way too early to say if they will experience this drift to the left, too. They "won" the election becoming the biggest party in parliament, by one seat. As said earlier, they did have to present themselves as more leftists to gain back some of their base. Their most popular candidate is actually aligned more closely to Left Coalition than her own party. And she's not the only one. I guess a rule of thumb could be that members from big cities tend to be more left (or even communist!), from small cities more aligned with right, and from rural areas they are quite centrist (as in aligning  with Center Party agrarian politics).
The current leader comes from labor unions, which have a strong presense in the party. The problem with that is that labor unions have amassed huge fortunes to use for imbursing strikers. Absent of any long strikes, the unions tend to press the party for policies that add to the unions wealth. In other words, not really benefiting the party base.

There's yet a minor possibility, that in today's verification count Social Democrats may loose a seat to Center Party in Western Finland district. Yesterdays count was preliminary, the results are not valid until every vote has been counted again. Usually the preliminary results stand as is, but sometimes the d'Hondt system produces oddities. For example in Lapland, the second most popular candidate, from Greens, did not make it to the parliament, loosing to a Center Party candidate who got only half of her personal votes. There's already a suggestion to change the system for smaller districts (by population) to make it easier for small parties to succeed.

And sorry about the wall of text. I've been lurking here for years, but rarely have had anything to add to the discussion. It seems I did it now all at once...

by pelgus on Mon Apr 15th, 2019 at 01:49:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you Pelgus for that insightful analysis!

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Apr 15th, 2019 at 04:11:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the wall of text.

What I meant with the rise of the True Finns, was that before 2011 Finnish cabinet formation was rather predictable, with the largest of the big three taking the lead and negotiating an agreement with the one of the other two that was less perceived as the loser. And then add the Swedish People's party, and more minor parties as needed for a stable majority. I am sure this is a simplified model, but was rather accurate until 2011.

But nevermind that, how do you see cabinet formation unfolding? If the Coalition party is aiming for opposition, who do the Social Democrats form coalition with? The decimated Centre? The True Finns? Or a minority coalition?

by fjallstrom on Thu Apr 18th, 2019 at 08:19:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks! Here's another wall, even if not requested...

You're right about the predictable "old way", as it has been described multiple times by political commentators lately: three big parties, two in government, one in opposition. In this decade both True Finns and Greens have pushed into that "big parties" group, although the Greens still do better in local elections than national.

Mainly because of this everybody was saying in election night that it will be very difficult to form a government, and it will take time, skill and perseverance. References to Sweden's latest process were abundant.

The morning after elections True Finns were making a lot of conciliatory and compromising noises. Then Social Democrats slipped that they had been in contact with some other parties since autumn about possible new government. True Finns immediately figured out that they were not one of those parties, and were infuriated.

Meanwhile the Center party made a big show of "the people" making clear they should be in the opposition, but then Jyrki Sipilä resigned his chairmanship. He was the biggest hurdle for the Center party to come to the new government, so all those "to the opposition" voices faded away immediately. In media people in the Center parties strongest support areas said that they voted for True Finns or Left Coalition since they didn't want their vote to go to Sipilä "or that Berner", Sipilä's privatization-grazed minister of traffic and telecommunications. Berner, though, wasn't a candidate since she's leaving politics to be a board member of SEB, one of the biggest banks in Sweden.

The base and most of the members in the Center party wanted to rule with Social Democrats already in 2015, but the party leadership obviously wasn't listening. I guess now they might be.

The Greens and Left Coalition have not said anything certain, but they do have an air around them of being the parties the Social Democrats have been in contact for a half a year. Their propositions for the policy of the new government don't sound like a starting point for negotiations, but more like statements of reached consensus.

The Coalition party has been more difficult to figure out. They do act almost like they won in the election, although they avoided defeat mainly because Center party did so poorly. They did loose votes, but gained a seat because Center party lost so many that even other losers got some of the spoils. Coalition party was talking about being able to cooperate with any other party. Which raised some eyebrows, because during the True Finns-Blue Future split they said that True Finns had "incompatible values". Apparently those values are now compatible.

Anyway, after Sipilä resigned and Center party came back to the game, Coalition party's stance has hardened. Their play seems to be opening the distance to have ground to give up in the negotiations while pretending to their base that the voters did not reject their (failed) policies.

Everybody seems to be betting that True Finns will be opposition. Not least because the leader of the Social Democrats has repeated many times that he sees no common ground for the two parties. Neither Center party or Coalition party really wants to be in opposition with True Finns, which would be the biggest opposition party and with a right-wing populist agenda. Center party probably abhors that situation more than Coalition party.

So, my hunch at the moment is that there's already been a pre-election preparations for "reddish green" core for the coming government, and the negotiations are more about getting Center party on board than anything else.  Last time Social Democrats were in government with Coalition party, they suffered the same fate Center party suffered this election. After finally making it back they may not have appetite for a renewal.

For Finland SD with Center party governments used to be the norm, mockingly known as "red earth" (punamulta/rödmylla) government. They also likely would prefer to have Swedish National Party in government too, just to be sure. This combination is colloquially know as "national front" government. There might even be space left for Christian Democrats, so they wouldn't have to be in opposition with the right wing parties.

The Social Democrats have already named their negotiators, and will send a questionnaire to other parties right after Easter. They expect replies by the end of the month, and after reviewing the answer will announce the parties selected for negotiations. They plan to make it fast, so that the new government can start at the beginning of June. In July Finland will take the Presidency of the EU Council, so they want the ministers to be ready for that in time.

The published schedule is tight, which gives substance to the idea that there already is an agreement between left parties and Greens.

by pelgus on Fri Apr 19th, 2019 at 12:11:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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