Finland heads to the ballot box on Sunday 13 June to vote in local elections after a campaign that has demonstrated growing political polarisation in the country.
The fraught atmosphere during this election campaign, particularly in relation to online hate speech, is at a level not previously witnessed in Finland, according to the University of Jyväskylä's senior researcher in contemporary culture, Tuija Saresma.
"It seems to me that right wing populist actors have aggravated others, on purpose even, and such campaigning has not been characteristic of Finland earlier, so I think something new is happening," Saresma told APN.
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Saresma added that the vitriol is not confined to the online space, but is becoming increasingly evident on the streets too. The defacing or destruction of political party posters has been a feature of this campaign. That said, the offices of the Left Alliance party and the Green party were smeared with offensive slogans and symbols in both Oulu and Pori.
"It's definitely spilling from online onto the streets and these phenomena are indeed linked. I would say that hate speech is first an act of violence in itself, but it also paves the way for physical violence as well," Saresma said, adding that widespread use of the term "verbal violence" instead of hate speech would help people to better understand the concept and its effects.
Local or national
Despite this being a local election, news agency AFP’s correspondent in Helsinki, Sam Kingsley, said many voters may also have national issues on their minds as they cast their ballots on Sunday.
"A lot of the things people will be voting on will be about what is going on in their area, in terms of planning and health and transport and so on," Kingsley said. "But obviously you can't escape the fact that there is an element of the vote that will be on the popularity of Sanna Marin's (SDP) government coalition."
All Points North's in-depth interviews with all of Finland's political party leaders in the run-up to the 13 June elections are available on Yle Areena.
"Waiting all my life"
Finland's Huuhkajat, or Eagle-Owls, football team will make a historic first appearance at a major finals tournament when they play against Denmark in the Parken Stadium, Copenhagen on Saturday evening.
Danish authorities have ruled that one third of the capacity of the stadium can be used for the game, so a few hundred supporters are planning to make the trip from Finland, including husband and wife Noor and Hanna Jamal.
"This is something that I would not miss for anything," Hanna Jamal told APN. "I would do anything that it takes to get there and to experience the moment that personally I have been waiting for all my life."
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This week's show was presented by Ronan Browne and Zena Iovino. It was produced by Mark B. Odom and the audio engineer was Anttoni Wikström.
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