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#useyourvote debate: Parties pitch for foreign votes

Yle News hosts a pre-election debate on 22 March, featuring one candidate from each of the eight parliamentary parties. Ahead of that discussion we asked all eight participants to present their pitch for votes in English in 500 words or less. Our moderators will then grill the candidates on the show, starting at 2pm on 22 March and streamed live via Yle Areena and Facebook.

Video: Municipal Elections 2017
The Yle News #useyourvote election debate is streamed live online via Yle Areena, and on Facebook. Video: Yle

It can be hard to find election material in English, so we asked Finland's biggest eight political parties to send us a short pitch explaining why they think foreigners should vote for them.

It's a big and under-served electoral constituency. In 2012 some 136,000 foreign citizens were eligible, but just under 20 percent of them actually voted. Even among those who did, nearly 40 percent said they did not get enough information before polling day.

This year Yle News is hosting an election debate so that each party can make their case. We'll cover a range of topics, but we also asked each participant to submit a 500 word 'pitch' explaining what they have to offer foreigners. It's not a free soapbox, they will be questioned about their claims during the debate, but it offers a flavour of what the parties emphasise when trying to appeal to voters.

The debate will be streamed live on Yle Areena and on Facebook, and will be available to watch afterwards too.

"We believe that every child has an equal right to fulfil his or her potential," writes Helsinki Green Party MP Ozan Yanar. "We have fought hard against the current Finnish government’s cuts in the education sector, and to keep full daycare as an option for every child in every municipality. We want our cities, towns and villages to be more vibrant. To have even more concerts, sport events, art happenings, museums and more nice places to sit with friends and family and enjoy life. That’s why it’s important to make businesses invest in the places we live in."

"Helsinki is rich," claims actor and director Olga Zamurovic, who is running for the Left Alliance in Helsinki. "If the citizens vote into power decision makers who will truly represent their interest, the city has resources to pay more workers in services, invest into infrastructure and stand with workers and unions against the privatisation of their workplaces."

"Kokoomus (The National Coalition Party) is a centre-right party striving to make Finland more open and international," writes Elisa Tarkiainen, an advisor to Finance Minister Petteri Orpo who is running for Helsinki City Council on a National Coalition Party ticket. "We would like to see more people from different countries and backgrounds choose Finland as their home. Finland could attract a lot more talent as it has a lot to offer: a high standard of living, world-class education, an innovation-friendly atmosphere and a lively startup scene."

"The Finns party ensures the fulfilment of basic needs and values that are important to everyone living in Finland," writes Erlin Yang, an entrepreneur from Helsinki running on the Finns Party ticket. "There is misunderstanding, however, that the Finns party is against immigration and immigrants. This is totally wrong. The Finns party does encourage and support immigrants who come to work and study in Finland, however, the Finns party is against those immigrants who come to Finland for unfair and improper reasons like aiming to obtain Finnish social welfare or taking advantage of Finnish social welfare systems."

"Since many of our members understand what it is like to be a minority in Finland (the Swedish-speaking population is just under 6% of the population) we feel that we can relate to, and be the spokesperson for, other minorities as well," says Silja Borgarsdottir Sandelin, a Swedish People's Party candidate in Helsinki. "That is probably the reason why there in the last few elections we have had representatives from several minorities, among them the Sami people. We are open-minded towards new people joining us and participating in our various events."

According to Centre Party election candidate Laura Kolbe, "The ideology of the party is unusual in the European context. Unlike many other large parties in Europe its ideology is not primarily based on economic systems. Rather the ideas of humanity, education, the spirit of the land, peasant-like freedom, decentralisation, "the issue of poor people", environmentalism and progressivism play a key role in Centrist politician speeches and writings."

"Let’s put a stop to school bullying," implores Christian Democrat candidate Adwoa Brewu. "Every young person irrespective of their ethnicity deserves the possibility to get education after comprehensive school. We also believe that families must be provided with the necessary assistance so that they can support their children's education. Guidance and counselling services, social and financial empowerment is key to supporting families."

In a change to our earlier schedule, the social democrats will be represented in the debate by Abdirahim Hussein, not Tuula Haatainen as originally planned.

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