Is 2019 the Year of Finland’s Political Tsunami?

It is not often that we get such a big upset in the polls in Finland. It is all a bit embarrassing for us now that we have just had a general election in April and are currently holding the EU Chairmanship. Even though the Social Democrats won the largest share of the vote then, it is the True Finns who have taken the pole position in the most recent June Gallup published by the biggest national newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat.

You can see from the above graph that they now lead with 18,2%, with the Conservatives and Social Democrats in second and third place with 17,5% .

The Center Party that was enjoying a lead position 4 years ago has all but disappeared from the radar and now sits in the corner like any dunce with 13,20 down from 21,1% – quite a free fall without any parachute.

The reason for this rapid rise of the True Finns is part of the normal long-term fluctuations in voter habits. Eight years ago, the True Finns unexpectedly got a large windfall vote, like a similar party, Finnish Rural Party. This was a populist party, that was identified with the person of Veikko Vennamo, known for his opposition to the politics of President Urho Kekkonen.

Support for the party was at its highest in the 1970s and 1980s, with its share of the votes reaching around 10 percent in some parliamentary elections. In the 1990s, the party fell into financial trouble and was disbanded in 1995.

These parties come and go when voters sense that the incumbents are becoming too powerful and too paternalistic. These parties also tend to base their manifestoes on nationalistic populist topics of the moment, and not on solving long-term challenges that can strengthen the country’s long-term well-being.  Hence, they soon fall out of favor… or at least that is what the incumbents want!

On the other hand, one can question whether the policies of the incumbent Conservative Party are based on populist policies. One of their young right-wing MP’s, Ms. Lepomäki, has recently demanded that income taxes should be reduced because Finns are, according to her, within the top three most highly-taxed people within the OECD. This veracity of this statement can be challenged. According to the latest OECD statistics, Finland is 5thin the taxation polls and very near a cluster of other western countries just below us.

Secondly, our taxes cover all primary and secondary education, and most tertiary and university education. It also covers excellent public basic and specialist healthcare, excellent public transport and road networks and infrastructure.

Thirdly the same Conservative Party has been sitting in almost every government for the last 20 years – so they have had plenty of time to reduce taxes and public debt during that period. It is no use crying out now 20 years later!

Fourthly, if you compare these benefits and taxation to what the rest of Europe or the US are having to pay in the form of tax plus the costs they pay for private healthcare and education, then one can say that we are doing very well given that we are a geographically large country with a tiny and highly disbursed population. In general, these other countries actually pay more than us to have the same standards.

It could be argued that we have set our standards too high, but what else can we do now we are now part of the global markets. We must set high standards if we are to maintain a strong position in these markets. Education, healthcare, and infrastructure are all key requirements for economic and social success and they must be produced in a cost-efficient manner, like we are now doing. Without these key elements we cannot possibly continue to succeed.

The answer to the title’s question is pretty straight-forward – No there is no big tsunami in polictics just now! The country will continue to pursue sensible policies that will emphasise equality, transparency and hard work, like our Nordic neighbours.

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