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 slightly 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 why 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 Silja Borgarsdóttir Sandelin, a Swedish People's Party (SPP) candidate in Helsinki:
The Swedish Peoples’ Party (SPP) is more than the name implies. First and foremost, we are a liberal party with a strong social conscience. To us, human rights and equality are the fundamental principles on which we base all our policies, whether concerning our care for the environment, economic stability or equal health and social care for all.
It is very easy to feel at home in SPP. Our membership consists of people with very various backgrounds and all with different stories to tell. We take pride in listening to each and every one and understanding the individual need that we all have. We believe in a society where you are free to be whomever you want as long as you respect other people’s right to do so as well.
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. That is probably the reason why, in the last few elections, we have had representatives from several minorities, among them the Sámi people. We are open-minded towards new people joining us and participating in our events.
For us it is also important to be active on a Nordic, European and global level. We enjoy taking part in policymaking on an international level, since it gives us perspective and an understanding of what else is going on in the world. We believe that liberalism can be a means to solving conflicts and overcoming differences. For me personally, this is very important, the notion that we can make a change. There just have to be enough of us who strive for the same goal.
Our members in the cities and municipalities around Finland help to make local administrations think about issues like enough funding and resources for schools and day care, homes and day-time care for the elderly, safe routes for pedestrians and people on bikes, and opportunities for small-scale businesses to excel. We promote policies that put the well-being of individuals in focus, since we believe that this always should be the priority for municipal officials. It is in the municipal bodies that the most important issues that concern our everyday life are decided. It is also there that we want to have a strong representation, in order to promote a humane and compassionate ideology. I believe that this is the most vital reason why foreigners and Finns should vote SFP.