As a foreigner who does not yet have Finnish citizenship, the Parliamentary elections are both intriguing and nerve-wracking to me, as they have a major impact on my life as a permanent resident here. Finland is now the place I call home, the place where my friends live, the place where I work, and the place that I long for when I am abroad. I care deeply about the current and future state of my home.
This year’s Parliamentary Election feels vastly different than in 2015. Finland and Europe are very different places now than they were then. We’ve seen a rise in xenophobia, anti-immigration sentiments, increased securitization, and an uptick in hate crime targeting marginalized groups.
Same-sex marriage became legal in Finland in 2017, but conservative and religious actors have vehemently opposed this legislation, and actively work to reverse this ruling. Over the past four years, the majority government has also worked to privatize Finland’s already excellent public healthcare system, cut funding to education, and has opposed further work on addressing and combating climate change.
As with any election, there is an element of uncertainty and fear about what the future holds, regardless of what end of the political spectrum you support, and there are always things that candidates, parties, and voters would do better or differently if they were able to try again. This election feels particularly important to the issues outlined above, and also for improving the state of affairs for all people who live in Finland.
To all the people who stood up against hate, we thank you. The diversity and significance of this year’s group of Parliamentary hopefuls is indicative of a shift happening here in Finland. Here are some of the wins for queer people and other minorities that we’ve seen during this election cycle:
- Over 500 candidates from both ends of the political spectrum publicly committed to Seta’s top 4 goals for parliamentary reform in this election: the creation of a National Rainbow Policy Action Plan, Trans law reform, securing rights for intersex people, and instating a third legal gender in Finland other than the existing male and female labels.
- This is quite possibly the most diverse group of people to every run for Parliamentary Election throughout Finland, in terms of age, ethnic and racial identity, minority background, religious affiliation, language background, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among other things. Representation matters.
- We have three openly trans people running for Parliament, and a number of other members of the queer community running as well.
A lot of work remains to be done to make Finland a better place for all. Also, we cannot forget about the upcoming European Union Parliamentary Elections in May, where we will also be able to impact the future of the European Union and continue to fight for minority and marginalized groups. We must stay vigilant and act against the significant increase in violence directed at candidates this year, and specifically at minority candidates.
On behalf of Seta’s committee on international affairs, we want to acknowledge and thank all the candidates and our allies who stood up against hate, advocated for human rights and gave us hope this spring. Your message has inspired and energized us for our work ahead.
Austin Sears, Seta’s committee on international affairs