Members of the National Coalition were in high spirits at the election-night event of the opposition party in Helsinki on Sunday, 23 January 2022. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE NATIONAL COALITION has declared victory in the county elections organised in Finland on Sunday, 23 January 2022.

The right-wing opposition party received 21.6 per cent of the votes cast in the elections, with 99.9 per cent of votes counted, emerging as the largest party in six of the 21 counties set up to organise social, health care and rescue services as of 1 January 2023.

Votes are still being counted in Järvenpää, Central Uusimaa.

“This is brilliant,” rejoiced Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition. “Our message about the upcoming [service] system needing a dose of economic realism and elements that guarantee better services to people was heard.”

“There’ll be things to fix in a reform as massive as this, but what we stressed in our campaign is that people will genuinely have the chance to influence the services and the service voucher will be a mandatory feature.”

The voucher is a payment commitment granted by the country that can be used to pay for private services.

Only 47.5 per cent of people exercised their right to vote on the composition of the county councils.

The Centre and Social Democrats received over 19.2 and 19.3 per cent of the vote, respectively, the former becoming the largest party in nine and the latter in four counties. The Centre won the largest number of seats on all county councils north of Jyväskylä.

“This is a win for the Centre. And This is a win for the entire Finland,” declared chairperson Annika Saarikko.

Sanna Marin, the chairperson of the Social Democrats, was similarly pleased with the results – not only for her own party, but also for the Centre. “I think this is also an indication that the elections were the return of the big three. A return of more traditional politics,” she commented at around 11.30pm.

The first-ever county elections were disappointing for the Finns Party (11.1%) and Green League (7.4%). Although the Green League was unsurprisingly affected by the fact that no votes were cast in Helsinki, its result fell well short of the votes it received outside the capital city in the latest municipal elections.

“These elections weren’t the easiest for us,” acknowledged interim chairperson Iiris Suomela. “Social and health care isn’t the first team that pops into mind when people think about the Greens. And we have a lot of work to do as a party in that regard.”

Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, said the elections were challenging particularly because of the low voter turnout, adding that it is particularly concerning that the majority of people did not think it was necessary to vote.

“Of course you can’t be satisfied with this,” she stated. “A voter turnout of 47.5 per cent is awfully low. I’m disappointed with the figure and unfortunately it’s especially damaging for the Finns Party.”

The Left Alliance won 8.0 per cent, the Swedish People’s Party 4.9 per cent and the Christian Democrats 4.2 per cent of the vote.

“It’s a good feeling. I’m satisfied with the result,” commented Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance. “The National Coalition’s strong result is naturally regrettable. On the other hand, it means that our work and councillors will have the major duty to defend our stance and views, to make sure the voice of low-income people is heard.”

The Swedish People’s Party emerged as the largest party in two counties: Ostrobothnia and East Uusimaa.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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