Foreigners are a sizeable but under-served constituency in the upcoming municipal elections, with more than 130,000 non-Finnish citizens eligible to vote. Most permanent residents of Finland are eligible to cast a ballot in the poll, but at the last election in 2012 less than 20 percent of eligible foreigners actually voted. That's just a third of the overall turnout figure of 58 percent.
Some 39 percent of those who did vote said they did not have enough information ahead of polling day.
That's we asked each party to make a pitch in English explaining why foreigners should consider voting for them--and to attend our election debate to answer our questions about their pitch. You can watch the debate online at Yle Areena and Facebook from 2pm on 22 March.
Here's the pitch from National Coalition Party candidate Elisa Tarkiainen:
Municipalities exist to make your life easier
Kokoomus (The National Coalition Party) is a centre-right party striving to make Finland more open and international. 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: high standard of living, world-class education, innovation-friendly atmosphere and lively startup scene.
We believe in securing equal opportunities for everyone and want to support people in their quest to live a meaningful life. Along with the other coalition government parties, we have launched a program that aims to make it easier for international talent to come to Finland for work. Kokoomus also wants to lower the hiring threshold for employers, so that everyone who is willing to work, can work. For immigrants to integrate effortlessly, we need to be able to offer personalized services that take their unique situation into account.
For Kokoomus, globalization and urbanisation are not matters of opinion. They are major trends that affect us, whether we like it or not. More housing is needed, especially in the capital region. Helsinki needs to be more densely populated with taller buildings, if we want to use our limited space more efficiently, while preserving the recreational land that contributes to our quality of life. Today’s urban planning should also make room for accessible public transportation, covering most areas and offering a real alternative to cars.
Kokoomus sees municipalities as ‘health and safety providers’. Towns and cities that function well make life easy for their inhabitants. When residents can depend on municipalities for securing their health and safety, they can dedicate more time to things they value in life. In Kokoomus’ view, a municipality does not need to do everything by itself, and should seek collaboration opportunities with private and third sector operators.
With the new health, social services and regional government reform, Finnish municipalities will be focusing on the environment, culture, infrastructure, economic affairs, employment and education. All of these important issues will require concrete decision-making at the local level, which is why these municipal elections count more than ever.
Municipalities also play an important role in raising the next generation. We believe that municipalities should support children in pursuing their passions by providing the possibility for each child to have at least one hobby. Kokoomus also pursues free early childhood education up to 20h per week, digital tools to support teaching and learning, as well as increase in the amount of daily physical exercise to improve children’s health.
People’s welfare cannot be secured in the long term, if the services municipalities offer are financed with debt. On the other hand, there is also a limit to how much you can tax residents. For Kokoomus, maintaining a balanced budget has always been a priority. These challenging economic times call for discipline in spending, and the responsible use of common resources is important to Kokoomus.