Three largest parties expect gains in municipal elections
Public services and environmental protection major election themes
The Social Democratic Party, the National Coalition Party, and the Centre Party are each hoping to come out of the municipal elections in October as the most popular political party in Finland. The Green League aims to overtake the Left Alliance as Finland’s fourth-largest party.
The conservative National Coalition Party has an historic chance to get the largest number of votes, according to both independent polls and the party’s own background studies.
In the most recent municipal elections, in October 2004, the National Coalition Party got 520,000 votes and 21.8 per cent support. Support for the Social Democrats was 24.1 per cent, and that of the Centre Party was 22.7 per cent.
Also hoping for gains is the populist True Finns, whose chairman Timo Soini has been travelling from one municipality to the next, recruiting candidates.
“Already now, five weeks before the lists of candidates must be submitted, we have as many candidates as we had the last time around”, Soini says.
The Greens’ aim to rise to fourth place in popularity in the upcoming elections is downplayed by Left Alliance party secretary Sirpa Puhakka.
“The Greens are strong in large cities, but we have a strong field organisation in all parts of the country, which the Greens lack”, she says.
The parties are raising public services, health care, and environmental issues as their main themes in the municipal elections.
Local democracy is also an issue that many would like to develop, but how that is to be achieved is left somewhat vague.
Of the big three parties, the Centre has not yet revealed very much about its plans for the local election campaign.
Soini of the True Finns called for a new kind of suburban policy, saying that many areas in the Helsinki region, and in communities along rail lines, need extensive repairs.
Soini says that the reductions in the use of energy that he expects to result from refurbishment of buildings in suburbs would help slow down climate change.
“No municipal elections can be held without talking about services and climate change”, said National Coalition Party Secretary Taru Tujunen.
The National Coalition Party expects zoning issues to become important themes this year, and the outspoken Housing Minister Jan Vapaavuori, with his criticism of the construction of Ideapark shopping malls and his support for dense community construction, is seen as promoting this theme.
Election themes vary from one municipality to another.
The Swedish People’s Party has been pushing its “fairness” campaign since the spring.
“It is fair that services are available in Swedish, that every child gets day care, and that equal pay is implemented in municipalities. The topics vary from one municipality to the next. In somewhere like East Uusimaa, the nuclear power issue is a topical one”, says Swedish People’s Party Secretary Ulla Achrén.
The organising of services is an area that contains the seeds of an intense ideological debate.
The Left Alliance wants municipal services to be organised primarily by the local authority itself. The SDP also opposes the idea of making the outsourcing of services and introducing competition as “absolute values”.
The National Coalition Party, the Centre, the Greens, and the Swedish People’s Party are willing to increase the use of private services.
“We have a clear starting point, that they need to be produced as their own services. The main issue is that the local authority always has responsibility for services, no matter who produces them”, says Party Secretary Sirpa Puhakka.
Elections website of the Ministry of Justice