Elections in Finland – ‘The nation is likely to be heterogeneous’

Finland’s Social Democrats won the parliamentary elections by a narrow margin. Second place went to the right-wing populist party “The Finns”. (Anti Emo-Koevisto / Letikova / DPA)

Mario Dubovicek: Yes, it is still there, the electoral victories of the Social Democrats in Europe, as happened yesterday in the parliamentary elections in Finland. But whether forming a government after 15 years of social democratic abstinence will be sufficient or not. Antti Rinne wants to give it a try, but has to get at least one conservative partner on board in addition to the left-wing parties.

A close election result in Finland with the Social Democrats in the lead and the right-wing populists in the back. I would like to speak with Henry Vogt, professor of political science at the University of Turku in Finland, about this. Good morning, Mr. Vogt!

Henry Vogt: good morning.

Dubovicic: Were you surprised by the result so close in Finland?

Vogt: Little bit, although you could already see in recent investigations that something similar to what happened eight years ago could happen this time now.

Dubovicic: The Social Democrats declare themselves the winners of the elections because they are ahead. Are you really the election winners?

Vogt: Yes yes despite everything, they are. Maybe you got six new representatives or got seats. Most of all, they will most likely have the position of Secretary of State now. This, of course, is the main thing for the party.

‘Maybe the nation has become heterogeneous’

Dubovicic: To do this, of course, they first have to form an alliance. My colleague Carsten Schmeister just reported how difficult it is. Will the Social Democrats succeed in forming a government?

Vogt: I think so. Finland has a long tradition of somewhat unconventional governments. This means that about ten years ago we had a government of six different parties, from the Rally, from the Conservatives to the Finnish Left, which is very different from the Left in Germany as a party.

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Dubovicic: However, it is unusual that no party has more than 20 percent.

Vogt: Yes, of course it is quite cliched this time that you have a group of five relatively large parties in the country. I don’t know how to explain it now. I might need time for that. It also means that the nation has likely become heterogeneous.

Dubovicic: More diverse, she says. Can one say split?

Vogt: I’d be really careful with that. Split, rip? To be sure, supporters of the Finns feel partially divided or not in a good position in society. But it is difficult otherwise, and now the “Finns” have a lot of supporters who do well in life.

Dubovicic: How do you explain that? How do you explain the success, and the indescribably good success of the right-wing populists, the “Finns” party, formerly known as the “Real Finns”? You doubled your votes compared to last time.

Vogt: And for much of the past year, they had eight percent support in investigations. During that year, they nearly doubled their support. There are many reasons for this. First, it became apparent in January that a number of sexual offenses had been committed against underage women by immigrant men in the Oulu region. This is why this suspicion of immigrants became a problem once again in elections.

Then about a month ago, there were reports of big problems in private nursing homes, in homes for the elderly by private providers, that the pension system was not in good shape, and the Finns were also able to criticize the government harshly.

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Then the government tried for a long time to restructure the social and health services, but that failed a few weeks ago and the entire government policy was severely criticized.

“Other parties may be a little too passive.”

Dubovicic: To what extent do Finns deal with Finns’ fears aggressively?

Vogt: This is the security question, so to speak. This has to do with fears. The Finns also spoke of climate hysteria. This means that all the other parties were very climate-friendly, to some extent environmentally friendly, but the “Finns” somehow tried to say that you can continue to eat meat, drive a car, etc. Society was divided over climate issues, the “Finns” on one side and the other on the other.

Dubovicic: Is it because other parties are not addressing these concerns properly or not well enough?

Vogt: Yes, I think they might have been too negative one way or the other. It should have been said more forcefully that Finland is still doing very well. It’s not just our luck in Finland in the crisis according to the happiness index.

National Rally party leader Petteri Orpo (left) and Social Democrats president, Antti Rinne, at a televised debate after Finland's parliamentary elections.

The head of the National Rally party, Petteri Urbo (left), and the head of the Social Democrats, Antti Rinne. (dpa / Letikova / Marco Olander)

Dubovicic: The happiest people in the world according to this indicator.

Vogt: Yes really. Most of them are still working fine. But, as in most European societies, there is currently a part of the population, perhaps 10-20 percent of the problems.

Dubovicic: You are also often in Germany, Mr. Vogt, you are also watching the AfD here, the populists in Europe as a whole. What can we learn from the election results in Finland for Germany and for Europe as a whole?

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Vogt: I would say you have to be careful, in spite of everything. First. Secondly, you should try to expand and develop equality in society.

Dubovicic: what do you mean by that?

Vogt: Eliminate hierarchies between people, secure jobs of course. I can understand why some people think it is barbaric in the case of Finland that homes for seniors can generate significant dividends and capital gains.

The statements of our interlocutors reflect their views. Deutschlandfunk does not take statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.

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