Which political party should I vote for in the upcoming municipal elections of October? If you are an immigrant or a naturalized Finn, probably one criterion is the party’s record on immigration and cultural diversity.
The first important decision you should make, however, is to vote on October 28.
Very few immigrants vote in municipal elections. In 2008, only 19.6% voted compared with 60% Finnish citizens.
Those eligible to vote are:
- Finnish citizens;
- Citizens of the European Union, Norway and Iceland;
- Other nationalities that have lived permanently in Finland at least two years.
While all political parties in Finland are officially against all forms of discrimination, it’s not clear what their real views are on the issue. How do they promote cultural diversity and how often do they speak out against racism?
The Christian Democrats are a case in point. They promote Christian values but there is not too much brotherly love shown by Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen when it comes to gays and refugee minors from Somalia who want to be reunited with their families.
The Center Party, Social Democrats and National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) suffer from the same type of split political personality as the Christian Democrats. You will find in all of these parties members who are for and against immigrants and immigration. No other party has, however, so many openly anti-immigration members as the Perussuomalaiset (PS).
The PS is the only party in Finland that has capitalized politically on anti-immigration and especially anti-Muslim sentiment as we saw in last year’s parliamentary elections.
The Greens and Swedish People’s Parties, and even the Left Wing Alliance with some reservations, appear to be the most open to immigration and cultural diversity, according to some polls.
This municipal election poll was published by Helsingin Sanomat.
One matter that concerns me the most about all of the parties I mentioned is that none of them speak specifically about the need in our ever-growing culturally diverse society for mutual acceptance, respect and equal opportunities.
What are some good questions you could ask a Finnish political party as the municipal elections near?
One question would be their big picture of Finnish society in this century. What is their stand on cultural diversity? How is our culturally diverse society supposed to function? Is it something that should be promoted or discouraged?
If they promote cultural diversity, the second question should be how. If they are against it, ask them what they plan to do with those people who live here and aren’t white Finns.
Remember to vote on October 28!
MT ´´is that none of them speak specifically about the need in our ever-growing culturally diverse society for mutual acceptance, respect and equal opportunities´´.
I entirely agree with you this, and they don’t have any thing to do about it. The Interior minister päivi Räsänen has similar anti-immigration policy like PS, so we have aware of that.
Akaaro, I haven’t heard any politician stating that there should be more acceptance. They may say it the Finnish way (promoting tolerance). I believe there is an important difference between acceptance and tolerance. They use the term equality (tasavertaisuus) but immigrants and Finns with international backgrounds should be mentioned with the word or statement, equal opportunities.
Everywhere I go and meet politicians and teachers, I tell them that “tolerance” is cool but an even better word is mutual acceptance.
Enrique Tessieri Mistä sä nappasit ton international backgrounds termin. Se on aika laaja ja epämääräinen termi, joka jättää ulos kaikki ne, jotka ovat eläneet koko elämänsä Suomessa, mutta jotka eivät tunne itseään silti Suomalaiseksi.
Hei Sasu, olen kuulut sitä. Mikä termi olisi sinun mielestäsi parempi? Olen joskus käyttänyt monikulttuurisia suomalaisia; olen kuulut myös interkulttuurisia suomalaisista.
Minä käytän värilliset ja maahanmuuttajat termiä koska ne on edes vähän tarkempi. Maahanmuuttajat katsoo sinun statusta ja värillinen katsoo koetko sinä rasismia. Muuten käyttäisin etnisiä termejä. Ei-valkoiset termi on surkea joten en käyttäisi sitä ikinä jos voi välttää.
Yksi syy on, että kun assimiloituminen etenee niin on kokoajan vähemmän niitä joilla on monikulttuurinen tai kansainvälinen tausta. Silloin värillinen voi toimia terminä jolla rasismin uhrit yhdistetään. Maahanmuuttaja termi ei voi olla se termi, koska silloin jo alusta-asti oletetaan että et kuulu tänne.
I suppose it’s hopeless to expect local elections to focus on local issues.
National immigration is not a local issue, whereas most services and opportunities for participation are locally organised. The pertinent questions that immigrants could put to prospective local councillors have nothing to do with central government policy or practice on immigration. Instead, they concern issues such as bullying of visible minorities at school, access to local authority services, local authority hiring policies, housing options for immigrants and local cultural facilities.
I would probably ask candidates to comment on questions such as whether they could estimate the number of Russian/Somali/Arabic language books in the public library and whether this is too many or too few. Or whether there are enough Russian-speaking social workers for the local Russian-speaking population.
Then the typical “election stunt” questions for candidates who have too much to say about immigrants might include “what’s the processing fee for renewing a worker’s residence permit?” or “how many racially motivated assaults were recorded by the local police last year?” and, of course “how many immigrant friends do you have – have you visited their homes – have they visited your home?”. Followed, of course, by the question: “what makes you think that you are qualified to talk about immigrants when you know so little about them or their daily lives?”.
Regions like Etelä-Savo, where the population is aging and where new jobs are hard to come by, it’s important that local government has some answers how to tackle these challenges. First and foremost, it’s a political decision. This involves a big picture of where society/our community is heading and what role will immigrants play in it. The matters that you mentioned are equally important issues that should be addressed as well.
In sum, the situation forces local government to be more proactive concerning its future. In a region like Etelä-Savo that involves attracting skilled labor, luring foreign and Finnish investment and promoting internationalization.
There are some local authorities (Oulu, for example) that have truly outstanding and carefully thought out immigrant integration programmes, while others have obviously dragged their feet in this area. This kind of thing provides plenty of ammunition for challenging prospective councillors. By contrast questions about national immigration policy are entirely irrelevant to local elections. Elected or not, these candidates will have no greater influence on the conditions for issuing residence permits than anyone else outside of the machinery of State administration.
The immigrants living in a district are voters and taxpayers. As with all other groups of voters and taxpayers, it is fair to ask how local government responds to their needs and facilitates their involvement. Integration programmes in particular have a very obvious impact on the ability of international enterprises to attract talent to far flung corners of the world. The social aspects of the integration programmes in Oulu and Tampere, for example, are definite selling points for Nokia Corporation. Immigrant advisers, social workers and school assistants also do sterling work in early intervention, detecting, anticipating and preventing problems that would otherwise remain invisible to local government until they turn into extremely costly cases of chronic dysfunction (the textbook example of dysfunctional Ingrian Finnish immigrants in Helsinki should not be forgotten). The same applies to functioning immigrant communities. Indeed activating and guiding these communities towards greater autonomy is a key function of integration programmes. All of this is organised under the local government umbrella.