True Finns and Greens advance in European Parliament elections as big parties suffer
Timo Soini (True Finns) takes largest slice of the national vote; eight women and five men make up new MEP contingent
With all the results counted in the European Parliament elections, it is not hard to find the evening's winners: the populist True Finns, who campaigned primarily on an EU-sceptical and immigration-critical platform, gained nearly 10% of the vote, after securing only 0.5% in 2004.
The party's leader Timo Soini scooped up more than 130,000 votes and was the most popular individual candidate in the entire country.
The Greens also fared well in a first test for new chairman Anni Sinnemäki, adding 2%-points to reach 12.4%, and winning a second seat in the new European Parliament, although they had to wait until nearly all the votes were in before their traditional strong showing in the cities carried them over the line.
The major parties all suffered at the polls to varying degrees.
While the moderate conservatives of the National Coalition Party extended their lead over their main rivals, they lost one of the four seats they had held, as did the Centre Party, and the Social Democrats lost one of the three seats they had held since 2004.
The Left Alliance lost the only seat that they had enjoyed, and now have no representation among Finland's 13 MEPs. On Monday, calls began for a change at the top, with party chairman Martti Korhonen in the firing line.
The Christian Democrats actually polled appreciably fewer votes than the Left Alliance, but a beneficial election alliance forged with the triumphant True Finns ensured that they secured one seat.
The Swedish People's Party also just squeezed home and retained their one seat in the European Parliament.
Turnout was down slightly on the 2004 elections at 40.2% (41.1%), but there were some considerable regional variations, with Helsinki seeing figures closer to 60% in some places.
(Figures in parentheses show change from 2004 and number of seats held previously)
National Coalition Party 23.2% (-0.5) 3 seats (4)
Centre Party 19.0% (-4.4) 3 seats (4)
SDP 17.5% (-3.7) 2 seats (3)
Greens 12.4% (+2.0) 2 seats (1)
True Finns 9.8% (+9.3) 1 seat (0)
Swedish People's Party 6.1% (+0.4) 1 seat (1)
Left Alliance 5.9% (-3.2) 0 seats (1)
Christian Democrats 4.2% (-0.1) 1 seat (0)
Others 1.9% (+0.8) 0 seats (0)
Elected MEPs and votes received:
(Numbers in parentheses indicate the quotient of votes for the party concerned calculated according to the open-list d'Hondt system of allocating seats used in Finnish elections)
Ville Itälä, 50 (Nat. Coalition) 65,916 (385,610) M
Anneli Jäätteenmäki, 54 (Centre) 80,007 (316,526) F
Mitro Repo, 50 (SDP) 71,517 (291,355) M
Timo Soini, 47 (True Finns) 130,432 (232,038) M
Heidi Hautala, 53 (Greens) 58,952 (206,167) F
Sirpa Pietikäinen, 50 (Nat. Coal.) 51,446 (192,805) F
Hannu Takkula, 46 (Centre) 39,311 (158,263) M
Liisa Jaakonsaari, 63 (SDP) 45,335 (145,677) F
Eija-Riitta Korhola, 49 (Nat. Coal.) 51,211 128,536 F
Sari Essayah, 42 (Christ. Dem.) 53,688 116,019 F
Riikka Manner, 27 (Centre) 37,304 105,508 F
Satu Hassi, 58 (Greens) 56,855 103,083 F
Carl Haglund, 30 (Swed. People's Party) 16,853 101,390 M
It is perhaps worth pointing out that the candidate's individual votes - provided that he or she is among the top candidates of the party concerned - are of less significance than the total votes won by the party to be used as a quotient.
Hence Carl Haglund was able to be elected with just 16,853 votes, while a good many candidates of some other parties may have actually polled more votes than he did.
Indeed, one of those left on the shore by the election mathematics was Risto E.J. Penttilä of the National Coalition Party, who polled 50,858 votes (the 10th highest total nationwide), but who would only have been elected if the party had won four seats instead of three.
Eight of the thirteen MEPs are women ("F" above), and seven (Mitro Repo, Timo Soini, Heidi Hautala, Liisa Jaakonsaari, Sari Essayah, Riikka Manner, and Carl Haglund) are new members, although Hautala has previously served in the European Parliament from 1995-2003.
The 2009 intake of Finnish MEPs ranges in age from 27 (Riikka Manner) to 63 (Liisa Jaakonsaari), and with the obvious exception of the Orthodox priest Mitro Repo (see earlier article), the election in Finland was not a great success for "celeb" candidates coming from outside politics.
Among those who did not make it were the former MEP - once from Finland and once from France - and World Rally champion Ari Vatanen (National Coalition Party) and Olympic swimmer Jani Sievinen (SDP).
A second sitting MEP who did not renew her popular mandate was former Helsinki Mayor Eeva-Riitta Siitonen (Nat. Coalition).
Kai Pöntinen, the National Coalition Party candidate who had made waves with strongly anti-immigration advertising (see attached earlier story), finished 8th in the party's rankings, but added more than 17,000 votes to the total gained.
Three of the "new" MEPs - Soini, Hautala, and Jaakonsaari - are in fact sitting MPs in the Finnish Parliament, and will vacate their seats when they go to Strasbourg, in favour of reserve candidates from the last election in 2007.
Timo Soini has already said that he will return to Finland to stand in the next Parliamentary election here in 2011, and will then hand over his European Parliament seat to the unsuccessful candidate who gained the largest number of votes in the True Finns/Christian Democrats election alliance, who happens to come from the True Finns.
Though the entire country was taken as one constituency for the election, six of the new intake of MEPs are from the Greater Helsinki area, and a further three hail from large cities in the southern half of Finland.
Only Liisa Jaakonsaari (Oulu) and Hannu Takkula (Rovaniemi) will be there to represent the interests of the north of the country.
We shall return to the subject of the elections in a more analytical vein in Monday's issue, looking at what the results may mean within individual parties, inside the government coalition of Centre, National Coalition Party, Greens, and Swedish People's Party, and also in the chamber of the European Parliament.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Poll suggests lower turnout in prospect for European Parliament elections than in 2004 (25.5.2009)
Photos of the 13 successful candidates (uusi edustaja = new MEP)
European elections: Centre accuses National Coalition Party of dirty campaign tactics (4.6.2009)
Orthodox bishops temporarily revoke Mitro Repo´s office as priest (27.5.2009)
D´Hondt System (Wikipedia)