Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Helsinki Votes: Feminists and Pirates

Unlike the United States, Finland has quite a few political parties to choose from, including some fairly small ones. Many of the small fry, it has to be said, hold no real sway over public affairs. Or ever will. 

Still, compared to the US paradigm where you basically have the choice of voting for one of two big parties, even if those parties only partly match your view of what matters in public life, Finnish voters can probably take some satisfaction in being able to cast a ballot for a more personalized party, one that much better fit their points of view. Even if those may be very niche points of view.

One such "niche" party I've noticed now fielding candidates in the Helsinki city election is a completely brand new one: Feministinen Puolue (The Feminist Party). Color-branded in pink, naturally enough.

The party's three focus areas are gender equality, non-discrimination, and human security. In other words, an overarching concern for human-rights issues. This dovetails, from a progressive perspective, with some of the most relevant -- or some would say contentious -- issues in Finland today: immigration and multiculturalism.

This progressive bent is reflected somewhat in the makeup of the 24 candidates in the Helsinki race. Two are wearing hajids, for example. 

Of course, multiculturalism and gender issues figure prominently in other Finnish parties on the progressive side, so you might think there's some redundancy in launching a new, narrowly focused party. But, if you really wanted to concentrate your political energies on these particular issues, a new start-up targeting a niche of voters could be the right way to go. The marketplace at work in politics, you could say. 

"Kaupunki ilman rasismia" (City without racism.) 
Another niche party is, in a sense, an immigrant. Okay, more like an import. The Finnish Piraattipuolue (Pirate Party) was created in 2008, a couple of years after its sister (or maternal?) party was founded in Sweden. 

While the party has a unsurprisingly computer-geek/renegade vibe to it, many of the issues it is concerned with are now -- in this age of Wikileaks and surveillance worries -- a big part of today's mainstream news cycle. 

The party's wheelhouse are "information" policies that touch on privacy, transparency, freedom of speech, and -- as you might expect for a party with "pirate" in its name -- the overhauling of copyright and patent restrictions. The temptation to say "keelhauling" instead was very hard to resist. Arrr!

The party also proposes replacing the existing social welfare system with "basic income", which has been widely discussed in Finland in recent years, and is in fact being trialed on a limited basis. 

It's a distinctive set of issues that might very well pique the interest of some voters, though in its nine years of existence, the party has apparently never had a candidate elected to any office. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how its 31 candidates for the Helsinki City Council fare on Sunday. 

Some of these guys do have a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp.
Well, maybe one anyway


  1. This is indeed a very interesting blog, Kent. I'd like to see some members of the Feminist party elected to push the long overdue issue of income equality. It was encouraging to read in the Guardian yesterday that a new law enforcing pay equity was just passed in Iceland. This is the first such legislation in the entire world.
    I'd also like to see the Pirate Party's 'basic income' policy gain some traction. I think this would go a long way to address the fear and uncertainty of those who have lost jobs (or whose jobs are under threat) due to technological change or globalization. This fear has not been addressed by mainline political parties in Europe or the U.S. and is at least partly responsible for Brexit and Trump's narrow victory in the U.S. It is also one reason why so many young people are supporting Marine LePen in the French presidential election.

  2. It amazes me that you guys have this kind of variety and this amount of discourse on display in even a local election. Yes, I realize that your city is also the capital...but, still. Dang.

    And it's even worse here in the States than you say. Since I long ago realized that our two so-called Parties are actually just cover for a single-party system. As George Carlin used to say (and which I denied for so long), nothing ever really changes when USA citizens "vote". No matter which side wins, the basic foreign and domestic policies remain in force.

    I can only imagine what it's like to live in an actual democracy that has the welfare of its citizens foremost.