Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Finland gears up for new elections

The current Finnish government, which includes the Finnish Center (KESK), the Social Democrats (SDP), and the Swedish People's Party (SFP), has served out a full four-year mandate, and faces elections on March 18. Currently, KESK and SDP are running neck-and-neck in the polls.

Finland uses an open-list constituency PR system; parties therefore take advantage of the drawing power of star candidates, but the system is proportional within the constituencies and generally fairly proportional overall. In Helsinki and the surrounding Uusimaa area, the conservative National Coalition (KOK) and the SDP run strong, while the north and center of the country are dominated first and foremost by the KESK, which still has strong ties to its roots as the Agrarian Party. The other principal parties are the Greens (VIHR) and the Left (VAS) or ex-communists.

One issue that seems to have arisen in this campaign is a guaranteed minimum income (possibly as a replacement to some of the various welfare provisions). The Greens have backed this and it appears that the Center has given this idea support as well; the SDP is opposing it.

In the end, it looks like PM Matti Vanhanen, the most popular leader, might pull out a victory (i.e. plurality) for KESK and enable himself to stay in the big chair. Otherwise, SDP's Eero Heinäluoma will take over. Either way, it looks like the KESK-SDP coalition will remain in power for another four years.

For profiles of the top candidates, there is an article at Virtual Finland.

My personal contributions are these pictures from Helsinki, 2004:

The National Coalition (KOK) campaign booth outside the department store Stockmann

The headquarters of the Social Democratic Party, Helsinki

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