Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Finland: SDP gets the boot?

Finland has held elections. Unfortunately, due to vacation, work and the previously mentioned car accident, I don't have time to analyze at great length. A previous post briefly discussed some issues in the election. It appears that the SDP (Social Democrats) campaigned more from the left in this election and there was some tension between the coalition partners.

The big winner in this election was the conservative (economically free-market) Kansallinen Kokoomus (translated as National Rally or National Coalition). The Finnish electoral system is open-list PR in regions; the leading vote-getter nationwide was Kokoomus's popular Sauli Niinistö in the large Uusimaa constituency (the suburbs of Helsinki). Overall, Kokoomus gained 10 seats and increased to 22.3% of the vote, its second-largest percentage since WWII (the largest coming in 1987, after which Kokoomus entered the government for the first time in the postwar era).

The big loser was the SDP. The party took 21.4% of the vote, its lowest share since 1962, and goes from 53 to 45 seats. PM Matti Vanhanen's Suomen Keskusta (Finnish Center) lost vote share but remains the largest overall party.

Regional voting patterns remained as usual: the Kokoomus was not really a presence in the north, but won a smashing victory in the south, taking over 30 percent in Helsinki and over 25 percent in the major Uusimaa and Varsinais-Suomi (Turku area) constituencies. Meanwhile, the Keskusta, as usual, did not figure even in the top three in Helsinki and managed only 12 percent in Uusimaa, but swept central and northern Finland, taking 43 percent in Oulu and Lapland. The best party at keeping a nationwide presence, the SDP, did so, but lost vote share mildly almost everywhere.

The main disproportionality is the 9 seats won by the Swedish People's Party--as usual, the party's vote is concentrated on the Gulf of Bothnia and particularly in the Vaasa constituency, where it won 20 percent. The SFP won more seats than the Christian Democrats despite fewer votes as Finland has no national compensatory pool.

Finally, the only party to significantly gain, besides the Kokoomus, was the mildly nationalist/populist True Finns party, which got 4 percent of the vote and 5 seats this time around.

What is the end result? Contrary to polls, the SDP lost significantly and KOK gained. The Swedish People's Party will probably stay in government, as it always does, but it looks like the SDP could get booted out for the first time since the KESK/KOK government of 1987-91 and Finland might take a somewhat more free-market turn. Either way, Vanhanen will remain prime minister.

Brief results at Parties and Elections in Europe; more complete results at the Ministry of Justice; there has been some interesting discussion at a blog called Finland for Thought, though be aware that it's written by expats in Finland and generally biased toward the rightist parties.

No comments: