Monday, March 19, 2007

Nordic trend followed in Suomi/Finland

Finnish elections enveloped most seats for the incumbent prime minister Matti Vanhanen, but somehow surprisingly they most probably got new coalition partners - The Unity Party (Kokomuus). Burguois parties came out as clear winners and out of the 201 seats in the Finnish eduskunta 111 are now taken by Centre, Unity, Swedish People´s parties and Independent from Ahvenanmaa/Åland. Hypothetically also Christian democratic 5 seats could be added to the previously mentioned coalition, but coalition making is a tricky business and whilst usually winners tend to take all whilst respecting also junior partners, who really wants to mess with another small partner:)

Greens (Vihreät) received one of the best results in their history, and their result probably shows the growing importance of environmental issues in the European/World party political agenda and also attest to the changes from the traditional to the post-modern features in the Finnish society. Another example of this traditional-post modern nexus is the bad result of the Social democrats. Finnish middle class is growing and the economic malaise (lama) of the late 1980´s and the early 1990´s, after the collapse of the USSR, is over. RKP/SFP was also getting rather good result and as Stephan Wallin (RKP leader) said in the election night that the Swedish speaking electorate is still there, but more and more RKP is appealing to the mixed marriage Finnish families.

The trend of changes is in the air, and Finland has thus followed into the shoes of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Somali born Ms Abdullah (Vihreät) did not get into Finnish eduskunta by some scant number of votes. Traditional Nordic welfare societies are changing in the front of our eyes.

1 comment:

Baltic said...

Bohemian rhapsody is bolstering Europe's centre-right
By Risto Penttila

Published: March 20 2007 02:00 | Last updated: March 20 2007 02:00

Acentre-right coalition seems likely to be formed as a result of Sunday's parliamentary election in Finland, meaning that centre-right parties will control all the European Union's Nordic and Baltic member states with the exception of Lithuania. The question is whether this sweep to the right will extend to the French presidential elections this spring and, later, to Britain.

Ségolène Royal, the French Socialist candidate, should pay close attention to what is happening in northern Europe. Tax and spend social democracy is out. A new brand of "bohemian bourgeois politics" is in.

The thing about bobos - as bohemian bourgeois voters are sometimes referred to - is that they are neither very bourgeois nor very bohemian. Theirs is a world that happily combines a Scandinavian welfare state with economic liberalism.

Here are a few recent findings from Finland. Only 27 per cent of people agree that "a high level of taxation is part of the Scandinavian welfare model and must therefore be accepted". Half of the population (49 per cent) is convinced that good public services can be financed through lower taxation. Only 16 per cent disagree. Seventy per cent think income tax rates are too high.

Estonia is the most extreme case of economic liberalism gone mainstream. Andrus Ansip, prime minister, promised that Estonia would become one of the EU's five wealthiest nations in 15 years. How? By cutting the present flat tax rate of 22 per cent to 12 per cent!

Bobos are happy to have their cake and eat it too. They do have a social conscience. In Sweden, the conservatives (or the Moderates, as they are called in the land of consensus) won the elections by claiming that the Social Democrats had played statistical games with unemployment and by asserting that the average Swede was actually getting poorer.

In Finland, centre-right parties won a clear majority of the vote with a campaign that combined the rhetoric of David Cameron, leader of theUK opposition Conservative party, with the consensus style of Scandinavian politics. Jyrki Katainen, leader of the conservative National Coalition party, took climate change seriously. He spoke about caring and encouraged everyone to rise above old ideological divides. He refused to be drawn into negative campaigning. Indeed, most commentators think the Social Democrats, part of the previous centre-left coalition, lost because their biggest supporter, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, launched a campaign against the rich, which made Social Democrats look like they lived in the 1970s.

The big question now is how Finland's likely centre-right government will get along with the trade unions. The last time Finland had a centre-right government, in the early 1990s, the unions threatened a general strike. But times have changed. Most business leaders believe that a general strike has become a nuclear option: it must be avoided or jobs will move to Asia and Estonia at an increasing pace.

Connoisseurs of old-fashioned politics may look down on the modern centre-right voter. They may dismiss bobos as latter-day yuppies. But something larger is at stake here. Fewer and fewer people in Europe define themselves as working class. The epithet of choice is middle class. (In Finland, half of Social Democratic voters define themselves as middle class.) The rising middle class seems to combine many of the values of bourgeois individualism with an unembarrassed acceptance of the welfare state.

Centre-right parties have captured the imagination of the bohemian bourgeois voter in northern Europe. In central Europe, the situation is completely different. The defining characteristic there is the rise of populist parties. These parties do not like liberalism, be it social or economic. They believe in big government and authoritarian leaders. The Swedish Moderates, the Finnish conservatives and the Estonian Reformists look reassuring by comparison with the twin brothers in charge in Poland.

Who will win the minds and hearts of the new middle class in France and the UK? The message from the north seems to favour the mix-and-match approach of Mr Cameron over the more traditional line taken by Gordon Brown, Tony Blair's likely successor as Labour prime minister. It can also be interpreted as a warning to Ms Royal, whose policies come dangerously close to those advocated by the Finnish and Swedish Social Democrats. But then again, when was the last time the French voters paid any attention to trends outside France?

The writer is director of EVA, the Finnish business and policy forum

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007