Don’t vote wrong!

(This is a translation of my earlier post. This is intended for all you lovely expats living in Finland. The texts was translated by Vanessa Virmajoki and copy edited by Sonja Virta. Huge kudos for both! If you know any good resources about these elections in English, let me know and I’ll link ’em here.) 

The municipal elections are on. In this informative and neutral blog entry I’m going to tell you how you should vote. It’s not easily accomplished, but it’s not rocket surgery either. I cannot guarantee satisfaction, because the world still consists of people who disagree with me.

This text is based on the assumption that you want to get the greatest possible gain for your vote at the elections and thus affect as much as possible the political decisions being made in your council. If the primary goal of your voting is to work on your self-image or to feel that sweet warming and intoxicating feeling of democracy, Mickey Mouse surely is a competent candidate. Or Wolverine.

For some of you this text might feel like it’s explaining the absolute basics. And admittedly this is a repeat of junior high school social studies. However, the matter is important: the whole institution of election advertisements and political media aims to obscure that. Everything being said applies to parliamentary elections too. I shall try to use “vivid” diction for your entertainment.


This dangerous, persistent, deeply rooted misconception has to be corrected straight up. Municipal elections or parliamentary elections are not presidential elections. Do not start voting by choosing the candidate who is the most ‘fitting’ or, god forbid, ‘agrees with you the most’ under any circumstances. Don’t be fooled by the wonderful dress splendour of the first lady Jenni Haukio. Choosing the candidate is just a sneaky con, the purpose of which is to get your vote to end up at the wrong address.

Don’t be fooled by the voting advice/ candidate matcher applications either, as they will not tell you the most fitting party. It should be super-forbidden. It is a disgrace to Yle that their  candidate matcher application only reports of the individual candidates, like do all the rest of the applications apart from Helsingin Sanomat.

It is also election adverts that can lead you into thinking that an individual is the most important operator in politics. It is not so – you can identify with an individual; an individual makes a nice story. I am an individual too! But politics is team sport. The decisions are made and, above all, made into reality precisely as a group.

On top of that Finland uses a party-list proportional representation voting system, where each vote given to a candidate will primarily benefit the particular party or electoral list or electoral alliance that has nominated the dude or dudette, and only secondarily the candidate himself/ herself. Because of this…

2. First choose a party.

Read electoral programs. Look at websites. Act according to old habits. Use the Helsingin sanomat candidate matcher application. Flip a coin. But first decide on a party. (I certainly have a couple of suggestions.) By voting for a particular person you will give your vote to all the candidates within the party. Each one of them.

The D’Hondt method for allocating seats which is used in Finland works so that all the votes cast for each party-list (usually a party or an electoral alliance) are added to a total. After that the total of votes is divided so that the candidate who received the most of the votes gets the total of votes cast for the whole party, the candidate who received the second greatest amount gets half of that total, and the candidate who received the third greatest amount gets one third and so on. A council or parliament gets formed so that the candidates are ranked according these distribution figures, and a sufficient amount get chosen in. 85 In Helsinki, 200 in the parliament.

So what can go wrong? Let’s presume that you’re voting ‘a good guy’, ‘a candidate like you’, ‘an old acquantaince’. This old acquaintance candidate is nominated by the Welfarestate Party’s list, but actually when it comes to his/her opinions, they resemble more the general alignments of the For The Basic Amenities Party. Your old acquaintance candidate gets ranked 45 within his/her party. The person ranked first on the party’s list is the chairman of the party and you actually think he/she is a relatively repulsive invertebrate scumbag. Nonetheless, you have given your full vote to him/ her. Your ‘own candidate’ only got the crumbles of that. Your vote benefited the first 44 candidates on the list more than it did your old acquaintance from kindergarten who also happens to live next door. By voting for a party you will also always vote for all the idiots within the party. It follows that you should choose a party whose idiots you can approve of too. (Or at least the idiots who might get elected).

So first choose a party, because that’s how your vote is being counted. Also remember to check the electoral alliances! In addition to that you can stalk the decisions made by the last government, the parliament’s interpellations and the pre-electoral political behaviour of the candidates. But also do keep in mind that all the alliances in politics are being formed and demolished every four years.

3. Now you can choose your candidate.

Use a candidate matcher application. Go get yourself a candidate. Ask me. You will impact his/ her ranking within the party. This matters a great deal more than just in the council struggle or a seat in the parliament. The more votes a candidate gets in elections, the more buoyancy his/her political career will have, even if the casted votes wouldn’t be enough for him/her to make it through to the council. By doing so you can be part of promoting the good in the world. Are all the current authorities of your party corrupted old geezers? Vote for a young woman. Are all the people in power at your party academic women? Support a worker man! Are the right- and left wings of your party at war? The votes cast for candidates of different blocks will reflect on the inner power shifts of the party and either deflate or revitalise the political actors. This is probably your best opportunity to affect the inner quarrels of parties. Or you can always bustle in on party politics.

4. Vote, even if it felt gratuitous. 

All politicians are corrupted pissheads. Parties are corrupted pissheads. The system governs. I’m too tired. Bewhew yada yada. There are no differences between parties. If I don’t vote for sufficiently many times, they will learn their lesson!

Next up a simple test which will help you find out whether it pays to vote in the elections. After familiarising yourself with the parties can you say which one least corresponds to your values and opinions? Not the most, or perfectly, or anything else, but the least. If you can choose the party that is the last one you want to gain power, it’s worth your time to vote. Even if only to vote against that party. If you can choose the most undesirable party and don’t vote, you’re practically giving your vote to that party. By voting any of the other parties you can weaken that party’s chances in elections for one whole vote. Otherwise you’ll be in effect voting for the christians/ communists/ true finns/ capitalist/ hippies/ rednecks/ swedes, or whatever it is that you hate.

If you can’t name a party that corresponds to your opinions the least, maybe you should skip the whole voting thing. Or use that 5 mins to familiarise yourself with the Finnish political system.

5. Have a coffee and enjoy the autumn weather. 

Congrats! You took part in creating a better world!

6. Exceptions. 

Because nothing’s ever simple

a) I know what I’m doing.

So you wanna vote for the party that is the second most suitable, because you want to teach the best party a lesson for going in with the wrong government or selling out on their principles. Bring it on! That’s the stuff! This is called influencing by voting. The Green Party noticed this at the 2011 parliamentary elections.

b) My individual-candidate’s a sovereign hero of politics.

There there. So if you are a supporter of the National Coalition Party and wanted to vote for Lasse Männistö, a strong liberal, at the parliamentary elections 2011, you also voted for Wille Rydman, a devout conservative. You got lucky this time, but how about the next time? If you wanted to vote for Wille, you got Lasse instead for your vote. Very risky.

c) I’m a convinced anarchist. All parties are just the same: rogue clubs.

Good luck. Now you can remain ideologically pure or choose the rogues of your liking.

d) For real. If everyone would renounce/ give up voting for sufficiently many times, we will cause a crisis of democracy.

Good luck. I hope the globe doesn’t explode as we’re waiting. (Seriously though, this a subject worth its own text.) It seems clear that this isn’t going to happen at these elections, and not at the next ones. And do you really believe that your camp is going to be the one that will get the upper hand in that crisis?