In the elections for the Finnish parliament on 16 March, the Greens League increased its seats from 11 to 14 (8,0% of votes, 28 000 new votes). This is a victory for the party: we were able to grow from the category of around 10 seats (the result in the three previous elections 1991, 1995 and 1999), to a party of almost 15 seats.
The three new seats are
1) in Uusimaa district: Ms. Heidi Hautala (MEP, huge 12 000 personal votes in her district)
2) in Pirkanmaa (Tampere) Ms. Rosa Meriläinen (deputy spokesperson of the party, former delegate for EFGP Council)
3) in Northern Carelia Ms. Tarja Cronberg (first Green seat from the Easter part of the country, very important!)
Our parliament group consists now of three men and eleven women, there are four newcomers.
The sad news is that we were expecting a new 5th seat from Helsinki but we were not able to keep the 23,5% support of local elections in 2000 and the position of the second biggest party of the capital but had to satisfy with 18% and 4 MPs. This was mainly due to the ability of the Social democrats to get their supporters to vote – local elections of 2000 was a total disaster for them.
The opposition party, the Centre party, won the elections: they got 7 new seats and they are now the biggest party. This means that they will lead the negotiations to build the new government. Also the party of the present social democrat Prime minister Paavo Lipponen, SDP, increased its support, but only with two seats, and it is the second biggest party now. The Conservatives lost 7 seats. They are more and less out of the game now, unless the SDP and the Centre are unable to come to an agreement about the government coalition and a programme. (There are three main parties in Finland, SDP, Conservatives and the Centre, two of which always form the coalition, one in opposition.)
We don’t know yet if the Greens can take part in the government negotiations.
The Centre party and SDP have alone the majority in the parliament, but for sure they will take 2-3 other parties into the coalition. If the Greens are in that group remains to be seen. We have expressed our interest in participating.
The Green campaign suffered from a serious attack on us by the media and the other parties on drug policy. We had great difficulties in brining up our own themes – the drug policy was not on our list!! – and the whole party suffered severely from the radical statements and actions of a handful of Green candidates. We estimate that 1-2 seats were lost because of this episode, but we were expecting much worse!
The election campaign in the media focused very much on the question of who will be the next prime minister after the 8 years’ rule of the SDP. The challenger was the Centre party with a new female face as the party leader, since the spokesperson of the Conservative party was not seen as a credible option. As a result of this media campaign, these two parties with a potential Prime minister gained new seats while all other parties – EXCEPT the Greens – lost some. It will be interesting to study who were the new Green voters – and if we can win back those old supporters who left us because of the drug episode.