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Candidates want vegetarian school lunches once a week, says election compass

Yle's election compass has some interesting data on what candidates say they want to do.

Emma Högnäs ja Nina Lindén lastenkärryjen kanssa puistossa.
Helsinki mums Emma Högnäs and Nina Lindén are not too worried about proposed cuts to municipal supplements to the Helsinki supplement paid to families of children under three who are not in daycare. Högnäs would replace the supplements with parental leave payments, and Lindén says she would direct the funds to early years education. Högnäs was paid the supplements for a short period, and Lindén did not claim it at all. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland's many election compasses are now open for business ahead of local elections due next month, and they offer plenty of information about candidates stated intentions before the election.

Yle's election compass is available in English, and it offers a short opinion survey answered by 52 percent of all local election candidates. Answer the same questions and the programme will suggest candidates you might want to vote for.

But the programmes also allow us to check the opinions of candidates from the main parties, giving some insight on where parties are likely to stand on certain issues. That is important, as although the elections are individual, every candidate is on a party list and your vote might end up helping to elect another candidate on that list.

So what do the parties think? We looked at three of the national questions in the compass to see how candidates answered.

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The municipality should pay families extra for caring for children under the age of three at home.
Image: Ylen kuntavaalikone

First up, attitudes to municipal supplements for daycare were surprisingly uniform. These supplements are paid to parents who keep their children out of daycare until the age of three.

The idea is to ease the burden on daycare services, as only a fraction of the true cost of daycare is covered by the service charges levied on families.

Candidates from the Christian Democrats, Centre Party and Finns Party all support the supplements quite strongly. But even among those parties with a less positive view of the supplement, majorities of candidates in the compass still said the supplements should be paid.

Jarkko Lahtinen of the Association of Finnish Municipalities said that the result was surprising, as local government has tended to cut the benefit in recent years.

"In that sense it is surprising that incoming municipal decision-makers are of the opinion that the supplement should be paid," said Lahtinen.

"On the other hand it is easy to answer 'yes' to questions like this," Lahtinen added. "But when the issue is explored in a practical way from different perspectives, it is not so simple.

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Schools should have at least one vegetarian lunch day a week.
Image: Ylen kuntavaalikone

The statement 'Schools should have at least one vegetarian lunch day each week' set the Finns Party apart from the rest.

Majorities of all other parties were happy to have one meat-free day per week in schools, in an effort to reduce the climate impact of school meals.

The Greens, Leftists and SDP candidates were most positive about vegetarian days, but just a third of Finns Party candidates in the compass said they would support such a policy.

The question could be seen as a simple and practical one. But it is also a window on some candidates' wider world view.

"It is linked to thinking about what kind of values municipalities and Finland as a whole should be built on," said Jenni Karimäki of Turku University's parliamentary research centre.

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My municipality should offer free contraception to people aged under 25.
Image: Ylen kuntavaalikone

"My municipality should provide under-25s with free contraception" is another question that showed a clear divide between the parties.

Majorities of candidates from the Green party, the Left Alliance, the Swedish People's Party and the SDP agreed with that statement. Narrow majorities of Finns Party and Christian Democrat candidates disagreed.

The goal of offering free contraception is to reduce the number of abortions and transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

Some 25 municipalities have already started offering it, and a nationwide trial of the policy is part of Sanna Marin's (SDP) government's programme.

Researcher: Election compasses even more important this time

Researcher Karimäki says that she believes the significance of election compasses is greater this time than in previous years.

Their importance has been growing anyway, but the Covid situation has accelerated that trend.

"I believe that the compasses will see a lot of users," said Karimäki. "They are especially important among the young as a way to find candidates and parties."

Around 15,000 candidates have answered the Yle election compass, out of a total of more than 30,000.

This week on our All Points North podcast Yle's Ville Seuri answers questions about the election compass. Send yours as a voice note on WhatsApp to +358 44 421 0909.

Recently the podcast asked why it's important to vote. You can listen to that episode using the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

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