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Finland on the lookout for foreign-born local representatives

With Finns heading to the polls in 2021, parties are seeking local council candidates with different backgrounds

  • July 27, 2020 17:30
  • Author Anton Stoyanov
Medium helsinki 3533946 1280

Finland is currently gearing up for local elections in 2021 yet the efforts of parties to recruit new faces have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. That, however, doesn’t mean that they have stopped trying – instead, they’re branching out and are exploring different options for how they bolster their ranks.

Finding strength in diversity

Currently, some 7.1% of the population of Finland is made up of foreigners – yet in the last elections of 2017, only 2.1% of candidates fielded for local councillor positions were not native Finns. That has led to some claiming the existence of a democratic deficit in terms of the country’s foreign population.

Combined with the slowdown of recruitment, this is the perfect opportunity to expand the reach and to fix the perceived problems of local Finnish politics according to some parties.

There are a number of advantages to fielding foreign-born candidates in local elections in Finland. On the one hand, the voting system rewards parties with longer lists, thus the more candidates a party has, the better the odds are that the party gets more seats in local councils.

On the other, establishment and pro-EU parties can count on the support of foreigners living in Finland as they are far more likely to identify with their non-nationalist positions and policies. Thus, giving non-native voters more representation provides them with even further incentives to vote and support them.

The change in party recruitment practices ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another sign of changing times – times when it is more important than ever for societies to stick together and to make the best out of their connections and social structures. With Finnish parties seizing the opportunity on a local political level, it is perhaps just a matter of time before others also take up the practice.

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