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Extra-parliamentary parties band together ahead of April elections

Four political parties without a current seat in the Finnish Parliament have decided to form an electoral union, in the hopes of winning at least one MP post.

Katju Aro
Feminist Party chair Katju Aro Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Finland's Feminist Party, Pirate Party, Animal Justice Party and Liberal Party have decided to come together to create a joint electoral union in Helsinki ahead of the parliamentary elections on 14 April.

"With this configuration, we only need a few thousand more votes to give our electoral union a seat in parliament," says Katju Aro, Feminist Party chair.

"Our minimum objective is one place; it is a realistic goal. It looks as if we will be able to achieve this with our union," Petrus Pennanen, chair of the Pirate Party, agrees.

A total of 13,528 votes was enough to gain the final parliamentary seat representing Helsinki in 2015, which went to a Finns Party candidate.

About 3,000 votes short

In the 2017 municipal elections, the four political parties in question earned 10,395 votes when counted together in the capital city, meaning that the new electoral union would only need a slightly over 3,000-vote improvement on this turnout to earn a MP post.

The Pirate Party is the largest of the four future electoral union's parties on the national level, but the Feminist Party gained the largest share of votes from Helsinki in the municipal elections two years ago.

"During the municipal elections we surprised everyone and gained a spot, even though our party had only been registered two months earlier. We will try to do the same thing now," Aro says.

Story continues after the photo

Petrus Pennanen
Pirate Party chair Petrus Pennanen Image: Yle

Nine extra-parliamentary parties are vying for parliamentary seats in mid-April. In addition to the four parties of the newly-formed electoral union, there's the Communist Party, the Communist Worker's Party, the Citizen's Party, the Independence Party and Finnish People First.

Borg: Outlier parties rarely see election success

Ten extra-parliamentary parties ran for seats in the Finnish Parliament in 2003 and 2007, but only 7 or 8 ran in 2011 and 2015. Tampere University researcher and election expert Sami Borg says outlier political parties rarely receive enough votes to secure a MP position.

"There have been exceptions, of course, such as with the Greens and Young Finns," he says.

Borg says the reason for this is clear.

"Parliamentary parties have completely different financial resources to use in their election campaigns and gain visibility during the parliamentary term," he says.

Unlike in other countries, Finnish residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to election candidates, as two new parliamentary parties (Blue Reform and Seven Star Movement) have been established over the last parliamentary term alone, in addition to one new political movement (Movement Now).

This is in addition to the eight political parties that were voted into the Finnish Parliament in 2015: The Centre Party, National Coalition Party, Social Democratic Party, Finns Party, the Greens, Left Alliance, Swedish People's Party, and Christian Democrats.

A total of 19 registered political parties and one political movement are therefore vying for a position in the upcoming general elections. Local electoral organizations can add even more candidates to the roster in some areas.

Tough competition for Helsinki representation

Analysts predict that there will be tough competition for parliamentary seats in the electoral districts of Helsinki and the Uusimaa region to which it belongs this spring. Smaller parties like the Blue Reform, Movement Now and Seven Star Movement are expected to target capital city voters.

"We're still holding out for that Helsinki seat. If we can push a candidate through in Uusimaa, then maybe it will give rise to another opportunity," says the Feminist Party's Aro.

"Our strongest support areas are university cities. We've currently got a municipal representative in both Helsinki and Jyväskylä," Pirate Party's Pennanen says.

The reason so many of the more marginal political parties are concentrating their efforts in Helsinki is because of the low threshold of votes required to gain a parliamentary seat there. In the last general elections, winning just 3.7 percent of the vote was enough to become an MP in Helsinki, while 2.5 percent was sufficient in Uusimaa.

Several Uusimaa MPs have also said that they would be relinquishing their parliamentary seat in the next election, freeing up close to 63,000 votes. In Helsinki this number is close to 30,000. Both leave room for new faces.

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