This Nordic center of high-tech leadership is about to have a national election, but it is one in which candidates do their utmost to avoid irritating their opponents, national parties promote their similarities, not their differences, and the outcome has little bearing on policy.
-- New York Times, March 15, 2003
After 8 years in the opposition
the expected glacial shift
occurred and Keskusta
managed to grab an extra 7 seats in the 200-seat Parliament
barely squeaking past the Social Democratic Party
(SDP), even though
they too increased their share by 2 seats. The loser was the third party of
, the rightist Kokoomus
who surrendered 6 seats.
But the New York Times was right: the change was not over issues
(the three parties' platforms are all but indistinguishable), but
over personalities, particularly the next prime minister. Voters
rallied to either the challenger, Centre's iron woman Anneli Jäätteenmäki,
or the prime minister for the past two terms, staid but dependable
Paavo Lipponen of the SDP. The National Coalition had no suitable
candidate to field and suffered.
Outside the Big 3 there were small changes afoot. The Green Party
continued its slow climb, despite being rocked by junior candidate
Markus Drake's loud support for drug legalization and, worse yet,
confessing to smoking cannabis. The biggest surprise, though, was
the meteoric rise of former boxer, professional wrestler
and populist loudmouth
Tony "The Viking" Halme, whose "blame it on the immigrants"
rhetoric got him the highest number of votes in Helsinki and helped the True Finns grab 3 seats. On the losing side
were the Swedish People's Party and the Christian Democrats,
who lost a disproportionate number of seats despite the Christian
Democrats actually gaining more votes.
Voter turnout was 69.6%, in line with the 68.3% recorded in the
previous elections (1999), and bucking the trend for ever-decreasing
turnout. The largest party in Finland, however, remains the "sleeping
party", since 30.4% of the electorate stayed home.
Centre 55 seats (+7) 24.7% (+2.3%)
Social Democrats 53 seats (+2) 24.5% (+1.6%)
National Coalition 40 seats (-6) 18.5% (-2.5%)
Left Alliance 19 seats (-1) 9.9% (-1.0%)
Greens 14 seats (+3) 8.0% (+0.7%)
Swedish People 8 seats (-3) 4.6% (-0.5%)
Christian Democrats 7 seats (-3) 5.3% (+1.2%)
True Finns 3 seats (+2) 1.6% (+0.6%)
Others 1 seat ( 0) 0.5% (-0.3%)