The mainstream Finnish media and the mainstream political commentators see the election results as a win for the populist vote – and they are certainly right! But they are wrong when they accuse the former opposition as being the only populist parties.
One group of populist politicians have been replaced by another group who are probably neither no worse or no better than the ones before.
The terminology “Populist Politicians” is being used by the incumbents to try to hold back the competition from eating away at their base. It has been used to try to hide the weaknesses of the former government that failed to act into the perceived interests of the majority of voters, and perceived interests are what counts at election time.
The Center Party lost because they made promises about education and healthcare which they had no intention about keeping. They cut the education budget and gave the Conservatives a free hand in granting private healthcare companies the right to cheap on care of the elderly, in return for the right to Crete a hugely expensive third layer of government! The Center Party also “reformed” the taxi monopoly with something much worse…
The word “Reform” has been much abused by both of these parties and they deserve the thrashing that they received. Center Party voters voted with their feet because they realised that the party was only looking after the interests of the incumbent politicians, wealthy farmers and forest owners. They veered far too much to the right.
The Conservatives did not suffer the same fall because their party base has always been solidly concerned about having lower taxes, and less income and social equality. There is no lack of hard cash for elections – the sky is the limit for this party with their rich donors. Money spent on spin doctors and heavy advertising campaigns enabled them to keep their position, but that was all. The middle class pensioners and entrepreneurs do not see any real alternatives and so are forced to remain loyal, but the party needs a good shaking if it wants to survive.
The Social Democrats just scraped through, followed by the True Finns. The Social Democrats will now be in the driving seat to form a government. The main question for them will be a bet on which of the three larger parties should join hem in government because the smaller parties like the Greens, the Left, the Swedes and the Christians will all want a seat in the government.
However, the Social Democrats and the smaller parties will only have 90 seats out of 200 and therefore will not have a majority. So they will need either the Conservatives, the Center folk or the True Finns alongside. Since the first two are expected to change their party leaders soon, you can expect some colourful antics over the coming weeks.
In any event the people have spoken, and it is worth recalling that nothing changes very fast in this super conservative country.