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Tuesday's papers: Post-election analysis and eliminating diesel cars in the EU

Tuesday's papers in Finland look for explanations behind the local election results and report on an EU bill designed to get serious about road emissions.

Perussuomalaisten puheenjohtaja Timo Soini sai omiltaan kukkia palattuaan perussuomalaisten vaalivalvojaisiin Bottalle kuntavaalien vaalipäivänä Helsingissä 9. huhtikuuta.
Timo Soini's Finns Party lost support on April 9. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat continues its analysis of the local election result on Tuesday with a Top Ten list explaining why things played out the way they did. First, the success of the centre-right National Coalition Party, which nabbed 20.7 percent of the vote for first place, was largely due to the Helsinki mayoral race, IS writes. The leading opposition party, the Social Democrats, were predicted to run away with the first spot, but had to be satisfied with second past the post and 19.4 percent support, as NCP mayor candidate Jan Vapaavuori secured close to 30,000 votes in the Helsinki area alone. This Helsinki loss tipped the scales, the paper says, because the SDP actually did well in other areas.

The second reason the paper cites continues on this theme, saying that the traditional fight between the SDP and NCP for first place in the capital city seems to have been decided. The NCP won 47,000 more votes in Helsinki in the election, carrying 28.4 percent of the Helsinki vote, compared to the SDP's dismal 13.8 percent. IS fails to mention that the Greens had already assumed the second-place position in Helsinki in the 2012 elections, however.

Third on the list is the observation that the Greens are eating into the SDP's share. The environmental party won an unprecedented 24.1 percent of the vote in Helsinki. Reason number four is the Green surge was not just limited to Helsinki, as the party gained ground across the country, coming in first in the central hub of Jyväskylä, for example. Fifth on the list was similar success in Turku and Espoo, where the Greens came in second, and Tampere, Vantaa and Lahti, where the young party came in third.  

SDP success outside of Helsinki

As was mentioned already in number one, the sixth explainer for the election result that IS posits is SDP success in other areas. Many municipalities in Finland have a local SDP star on the ballot, and in these places, the traditionally labour-friendly party won the vote. In Tampere, for example, MP Sanna Marin came in first, while in Vantaa, Antti Lindtman was king of the polls. In the southwest coastal city of Rauma, the SDP received 39.9 percent of the vote. Seventh on the list was the SDP's success in Lahti, and eighth, the lack of well-known SDP candidates in Jyväskylä, which handed the Greens the win.

The ninth reason for the election result on the IS list is discontent with the three government coalition members: the Centre Party, the NCP and the Finns Party. Total voter support was only 47 percent for the triad. All three parties lost support in the local elections, the Finns Party by a hefty 3.5 percent. And the final reason for the result in the tabloid was the Green Party's successful profiling as the defenders of education among a field of political parties with more ambiguous messages.

Some soul-searching in store

The tabloid Iltalehti features a brief assessment of the Social Democratic Party's situation now that the poll success they coveted didn't come their way. The tabloid says the SDP district leaders have revealed that they are planning "serious talks". IL says a poll for the Uutisuomalainen group of regional newspapers found that only four of the 12 district party leaders contacted were prepared to throw their unconditional support behind party chair Antti Rinne. On the other hand, none of the leaders indicated a direct lack of confidence for Rinne either. The party elders say they must first explore the reasons for the disappointing election outcome, and only then discuss Rinne's leadership position.

The Aamulehti newspaper out of Tampere features an interesting Lännen Media 'experiment' on Tuesday that translates the local election result to the parliament. In other words, the paper takes a look at how the results would have changed the makeup of the Finnish Parliament, had the elections been parliamentary elections and not local council elections.   

The three governing parties retain their slim majority, with election winner NCP securing 48 seats, making up for losses in the Centre and Finns Party ranks. Proportionately to the local election result, the Finns Party would have lost 21 MP seats.

The Greens Party would have bumped up its parliamentary presence from 15 to 22 seats, and the rest of the opposition parties – the SDP, Left Alliance, Christian Democrats, and the Swedish People's Party – would have also gained more MPs.

Markku Jokisipilä of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies says the Lännen Media calculation leans in the right direction, but points out that there are fundamental differences between the municipal and parliamentary elections when it comes to the nature of the election and party strategizing.

Finland's next parliamentary elections will take place in April 2019.

The end of diesel motors in the EU?

The Helsinki newspaper Helsingin Sanomat moves on from the election to news of European Parliament plans to tighten emission requirements for new cars. The EU's industry commissioner says diesel vehicles will "disappear much faster than we can imagine".

The European parliament voted strongly in favour of a bill to bolster EU oversight and allow Brussels to fine carmakers up to 30,000 euros per vehicle for cars that fail to meet laboratory test standards. The paper says a law like this would have dramatic effects, as pretty much every car on the road today does not meet this requirement. Volkswagen was recently swept up in a scandal after it manipulated the tests of diesel cars. The body voted 585 to 77 in support of the move, but it still requires negotiations between EU lawmakers, the European commission and member states before it can become law.

The problem with diesel motors is they emit large amounts of nitrogen dioxide. They perform well in laboratory tests, in part due to manufacturer tampering like in the Volkswagen case, but pollute heavily in real-life road conditions. The 'Euro 6' norm allows cars to emit only 80 milligrams of nitrogen dioxide per kilometre, but for diesel cars, that rate is closer to 500 milligrams.

Many cities are leading the way in imposing an all-out ban on diesel-powered vehicles. Oslo has enacted a temporary moratorium, while the mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have already signalled a future ban on diesel vehicles by the year 2025. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said last week that the city is considering fining cars with high emissions.

Car manufacturers are also considering dropping diesel options. Toyota, for example, has decided not to produce diesel versions of its new C-HR automatic models, and Volvo Cars has announced it will quit diesel production by 2020. Nissan and Renault have nodded in the same direction.

Statistics show that Finland has over 700,000 diesel cars in service, but that the sales of cars with diesel motors has been falling steadily for years.

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