The decline in turnout in the municipal elections is understandable in the light of the forthcoming social reform, but behind the numbers, Finnish voting is worryingly divided, writes Jussi Pillinen, HS’s head of economics and politics.
Municipal elections historically low turnout is one of the key issues in Sunday’s election. Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tampere Johanna Vuorelma held an interview with HS low activity is already “a problem for the legitimacy of the system”.
Indeed, it is a serious problem if representative democracy does not inspire those it represents. The picture of the municipal elections is still being clarified, but quite a lot is already known about the differences.
Read more: Turnout was the biggest loser in the election: “Beginning to be at a crisis level for democracy,” says the researcher
In brief in other words, the experience of empowerment accumulates in society for those who are already doing well.
Bibu Democracy Research Project report published in 2019 says that socio-economic status correlates strongly with turnout in parliamentary elections.
Low-income people vote far less than high-income people. The lowest voters are manual laborers such as window washers, kitchen staff and waiters. Most of all, for example, managers, teachers and doctors.
Young people vote less often than parents, but family backgrounds also matter.
Checked at the University of Helsinki a couple of years ago Hannu Lahtinen the dissertation said arresting information: For young adults whose parents had not completed post-primary education, turnout in the 2015 parliamentary elections was only 28 per cent. If the parent had a high school diploma, 39 percent voted. The parent’s master’s degree, on the other hand, raised the turnout to 69 percent.
State under this year’s Youth Council elections published by the survey The voting prospects of 18–29-year-olds also reported a lower turnout among young people, but no reasons were found in the Economic Survey survey. The candidate just didn’t seem to be found.
The report concludes that abstention is, in a sense, the starting point for young people.
What is special is that, although young people’s enthusiasm for voting is slim, they still know politics at least to some extent. In the youth survey, about 73% of respondents knew how to name the party they would prefer to vote for – if at all.
In the municipal elections now held, the stakes were not really historically high.
Voting there is reason to be concerned about the division. If, in a democracy, turnout falls close to half and those who vote are still a select group, this may not bode well for the long-term acceptability of the system. Even the benefactors often choose people who feel like themselves in the urn.
On the other hand, there are also positive signs.
In the last parliamentary elections, turnout rose to 72.1 per cent. The number was the highest since 1991, an increase of as much as two percentage points compared to the previous parliamentary elections. The lowest turnout was in the 2007 parliamentary elections, when only 67.9 per cent voted.
Although more than 80 percent of the wild construction of the welfare state has come down, it would be difficult to claim that the people of Finland are actually abandoning democracy.
Clean rationally, in the municipal elections now held, the stakes were not really historically high.
The current government’s version of the long-forged sote reform seems to be going through, and the reform will move municipalities away from wholesale for their most prominent tasks: care for the elderly, health centers and clinics.
Of course, very important schools remain, but on Sunday there was no actual cherishing of the fate of the local services. Significantly more important for services are the regional elections that are expected at the beginning of next year – if the government’s proposal materializes.
In practice, the regional commissioners were also elected in Helsinki in Sunday’s municipal elections, as Helsinki has its own welfare area in the reform of the government. Awareness of this has hardly reached all citizens, but in any case, in the capital, the turnout fell only slightly, although elsewhere it came down drastically.
Parties should make sure that everyone is really addressed in a democracy.
Parliamentary elections and differences in municipal elections can also be sought where major contradictions take place in society. There is a lot of climate action in municipalities, but the actual climate targets are set at EU or national level.
The equation of public finances is ultimately intertwined as state contributions to parliamentary decisions, and municipal finances cannot ultimately be completely separated from national economic policy. The korona was also crossed over to the municipalities by shoveling loan money.
On the other hand, the erosion of local democracy certainly does not at least increase the sense of inclusion. If political decisions at the national level do not turn into significant changes in the immediate environment – for example in heating or health services – the experience of participation is unlikely to improve.
That is why parties should make sure that everyone in a democracy is really addressed, even if not everyone is voting now. Because of Korona, there was now a real some election, with campaigning focused on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, it was not reflected in turnout – rather the opposite. While some activate new voters, neither does it activate all.
Therefore, the media certainly has something to consider also whose things are reflected in the stories and from what point of view. The experience of inclusion is a common thing in all Finnish democracy, which should not be eroded.