More immigrants in Greater Helsinki area standing for election than ever before
In the Helsinki and Uusimaa electoral districts there are 20 candidates with immigrant backgrounds standing in the upcoming Parliamentary election. This equals the number of immigrant candidates in the entire country during the previous election four years ago.
At present Finland has no MPs with immigrant backgrounds.
In the 2003 election, the immigrant candidate with the most votes was the Green League's Zahra Abdulla from Helsinki.
With 2,800 votes, she became the fourth reserve member. Currently she is the third substitute after Johanna Sumuvuori became an MP in mid-term.
Abdulla is running again this year in the Helsinki constituency.
According to University of Helsinki researcher Niklas Wilhelmsson, an immigrant candidate might well make it into the 200-seat Parliament this time.
"The problem is that the voting activity among the immigrants has traditionally been fairly low. But of course even the members of the original population may cast their votes in increasing numbers for a candidate with an immigrant background."
In Wilhelmsson’s view the immigrant candidates campaign first and foremost for their party, even if they often incorporate the immigrant causes as important election themes.
The Left Alliance party secretary Aulis Ruuth sees the increasing number of Parliamentary candidates with immigrant backgrounds as a clear message to the Finns.
"This is a natural trend. More and more immigrants have received their Finnish citizenship. Furthermore, their number proves to other immigrants that even in this manner one can influence things."
"There is a danger that the candidates born abroad will only be classified based on their background", says Marjukka Weide, who is currently working on her dissertation on the participation in local politics of those born outside Finland.
"Some may choose to see symbolic meanings in an immigrant making it to Parliament", Weide ponders.
"But what is important is to pay attention genuinely to what the candidate has to say."
Previously in HS International Edition:
Chairman Katainen disapproves of National Coalition MP’s racist remarks (6.3.2007)