The biggest losers were the Social Democrats and National Coalition, who nevertheless remained the two largest parties.
The Centre Party’s drive to tempt voters into ’coming home’ from the Finns Party was more successful than opinion polls predicted, with the party winning 2.9 percentage points more support than in the 2011 parliamentary elections.
The Finns Party was the most successful, however, and now has a new platform on which to build its grassroots organisation. Their biggest breakthrough came in North Karelia, where they won 16.2 percent of the vote and became the third biggest party.
Anti-immigrant sentiment in Lieksa
Anti-immigrant sentiment in the region is strong. The chair of the Lieksa chapter of the SDP said that his party may have been shunned by some voters because it included immigrants on its party list. Finland’s open-list d’Hondt voting system means that voters choose one candidate but their vote also supports others on the same list, and some were unwilling to risk voting in immigrants.
”I didn’t expect losses this big,” said local party leader Eero Kärkkäinen. ”We had immigrants with us and many Lieksa people don’t accept that yet. A lot of voters complained to me that if they give their vote to me or another Social Democrat, the vote also goes to immigrants.”
Kärkkäinen linked the town’s high unemployment rate—which stood at 14.3 percent in 2011, according to the regional Centre for Economic Development—to the hostility towards immigrants.
There was happier news in the capital city region, where at least half a dozen candidates with migrant backgrounds were elected to city councils.
The largest influx is in Helsinki, where the Green League’s Zahra Abdullah is joined by Fatbardhe Hetemaj of the NCP and the SDP’s Nasima Razimyar. All three have formerly been honoured as Refugee Woman of the Year. The SDP also saw Ali Abdirahman onto the council in Espoo, and Faysal Abdi and Ranbir Sodhi in Vantaa.