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"The most important thing is to vote," says expert on final day of election campaign

"There is no single correct way to vote. The most important thing is just to vote," says Markku Jokisipilä, director of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies.

Vaalitunnelmaa kuvattuna Oulun Rotuaarin vaalikylästä 1.4.2023
Campaigning in full swing at Oulu's Rotuaari Square on Saturday. Image: Rami Moilanen / Yle
Yle News

Parliamentary candidates were on the stump on Saturday in the final day of campaigning before Finns elect a new legislature – and indirectly a new government.

Voting begins on Sunday at 9 am, with polling stations closing at 8 pm. A record 1.7 million people, or nearly 40 percent of voters in Finland, cast advance ballots in this year's elections.

The day before the elections, public opinion polls suggest that support for the three largest parties is so closely tied that any of them could end up on top, with the first chance to try to form a new government.

Former deputy prime minister Petteri Orpo's opposition National Coalition Party (NCP) still leads the polls, as it has for more than a year, but Riikka Purra's nationalist Finns Party has almost caught up with while Prime Minister Sanna Marin's SDP is close behind.

According to the director of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies, Assistant Professor Markku Jokisipilä of the University of Turku, this campaign has been marked by "the ferocity of the debate and the harsh choice of words, where interestingly, above all, the SDP and Prime Minister Marin have stood out in the most vigorously".

Markku Jokisipilä Ykkösaamun studiossa lauantaina 1. huhtikuuta 2023.
The director of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies, Assistant Professor Markku Jokisipilä of the University of Turku, spoke on the Yle current-affairs programme Ykkösaamu on 1 April. Image: Tommi Pylkkö / Yle

Interviewed on the Yle current-affairs programme Ykkösaamu on Saturday morning, Jokisipilä pointed to another distinctive feature of this campaign: for once only three parties have a realistic chance of leading the next government.

"The Centre is now campaigning for the first time as a medium-sized party outside the prime ministerial race," he noted. The Centre has long been one of Finland's biggest parties, leading half a dozen governments over the past 30 years.

"If the Centre permanently shrinks to a party of 20-30 MPs, that would constitute a really major change in the Finnish party structure, the kind that only happens about once in half a century," he said.

Jokisipilä: Finns Party strong on TikTok

Jokisipilä noted that while the importance of social media has grown with each election, this campaign cycle has been marked by – the strong emergence of the Finns Party in this field.

"Despite its reputation as something of a hick party, the Finns Party has been the strongest in terms of social media presence and has also been the first to take over TikTok," said Jokisipilä.

In his view, the main themes of the elections have been familiar, for example, balancing public finances.

"Here, perhaps, the 2023 campaign cycle has been at its most traditional, with arguments about whether we should carry out spending adjustments or tax increases," he observed.

Among other familiar themes, he highlights tackling the effects of Finland's aging population and shrinking labour force, as well as how to maintain welfare services in the future.

Marin urges tactical voting

There has also been discussion of tactical voting during the election campaign.

Jokisipilä defines this as "thinking about different routes to how one's own values ​​could best be realised in the government formed after the elections and its policies".

"Marin has appealed directly to voters, saying that voting for the SDP is the only way to prevent the Finns Party from entering the government and the creation of a right-wing government. The Greens and the Left Alliance probably have their teeth clenched over this," he said.

"It's completely acceptable and rational to primarily vote based on the future government line-up, but it's equally acceptable and reasonable to vote for a certain party to show support for that particular value set. There is no single correct way to vote. The most important thing is just to vote."

Jokisipilä stressed that in this situation, every single seat in Parliament may be significant. He points out that in the last elections four years ago, the SDP received 40, the Finns Party 39 and the NCP 38 seats. The NCP lost one seat when MP Wille Rydman resigned last summer amid allegations of harassing young women. He is running for re-election on the Finns Party ticket.

"It's possible that we'll end up with two parties having the same number of MPs this time," said Jokisipilä.

Still deciding who to vote for? Find a candidate via Yle's election compass.

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