“The parliament voted on the Finns Party’s (the True Finns) initiative concerning removal of Swedish language as an obligatory language from schools before the elections. Results were transparent. Every political party, except the Finns Party and other small exceptions, supported the current system in which Swedish is an obligatory language. Quite clearly, that voting removed the motion from the agenda”, says the Swedish People’s Party of Finland Secretary for International Affairs Andreas Elfving in the interview with zw.lt.
“The main reason for Swedish minority’s good results in the elections in April 2015 has been our leader Carl Haglund who was the Minister of Defence of Alexander Stubb’s government. He was very active in a domestic policy and achieved success in that field. He also obtained the most personal votes in the elections” adds the Finish politician. “It’s obvious that we’re not in favour of electoral threshold in national elections. When in a system in which the multitude of small parties makes forming a government difficult one may consider introducing such a threshold. However, as a rule in democracy all parties which have obtained the required number of votes should be represented in a parliament. Regional minorities also deserve a voice”, says Elfving.
Tomasz Otocki, zw.lt: In the elections in April 2015 the Swedish People’s Party of Finland obtained almost 145 thousand votes (4,88%). That’s a progress in comparison with the elections which took place four years ago (nearly 126 thousand votes and 4,3%). How would you comment on the Swedish minority’s result in the elections? Have party’s goals been reached? Could we say that there’s a certain tendency and people trust your party more?
Andreas Elfving: We’re satisfied with our party’s results in all constituencies. We’ve noticed a significant rise in our party’s popularity in the two biggest constituencies: in Helsinki and in the Baltic Sea Region constituency near Helsinki Uusimaa (Nyland). Due to the fact that Vassa constituency in the West of Finland (25% of its inhabitants speaks Swedish – editorial note zw.lt) has lost one seat in the parliament (it was caused by the population change), unfortunately our representation has decreased in this region from 4 to 3 MPs, even though we obtained 2,5 thousand voters more than in 2011. Our biggest increase in popularity took place in Uusimaawhere we obtained 11 thousand votes more. It gave us an additional mandate in the region. All in all, we’ve retained our mandates in parliament. Our goal was to get one more mandate but we didn’t managed to do it. Since our coalition partners have lost their seats and votes our gains stand out. We also fielded our candidates in more constituencies than before. It results from the fact that people are more interested in our party and policy which we endorse as an open, liberal political party.
What is the source of Swedes’ success in that elections?
The main cause is connected with our leader Carl Haglundthe Minister of Defence of Alexander Stubb’s government (He is Swedish and the Prime Minister of Finland – editorial note zw.lt). He was very active in a domestic policy and had achieved success as a Minister. He also obtained the most personal votes in the elections. More people have confidence in our policy. Carl Haglund is deemed one of the most trustworthy members of the cabinet according to the recent poll.
The last time zw.lt talked with you in Spring 2014, you said that some political environments in Finland had been trying to lower the status of Swedish language (e.g. “the True Finns” currently “Finns” and also young conservatives from the National Coalition Party). Were the “Swedish” issues discussed during the election campaign? If so, then in what manner: matter-of-factly or with a populist approach?
“Before the elections the parliament voted on the Finns Party’s (the True Finns) initiative concerning removal of Swedish language as an obligatory language from schools. Results were transparent. Every party, except the Finns Party and other small exceptions, supported the current system in which Swedish is an obligatory language. Quite clearly, that voting removed the motion from the agenda. After that other issues were discussed, such as safety. Our party has a clear position on that matter. Because the leader of our party is also the Minister of Defence, a lot attention was devoted to that matter.
The Finns Party obtained slightly less votes during recent elections than in those in 2011. However, the party is currently on the second position and there’s been a discussion whether they should join the coalition (the interview was carried before the final decision in respect of the composition of the government. The True Finns has been included but the Swedish minority hasn’t – editorial note zw.lt). Is the Swedish People’s Party of Finland afraid that when “Finns” enter the government some unfavourable decisions might be made concerning restriction of rights of minorities? Can you imagine Swedes’ party with “the True Finns” or is it an either-or situation?
It’s quite obvious that the Finns Party will be a part of the coalition. On the one hand, one may say that in the coalition where there’re Finns there’ll be a need for us in order to balance their influence. On the other hand, being in a government with a party that may be considered as a one of your main adversary is, of course, a challenge. Our policy has always been a result of negotiation. Arrangements concluded during a coalition negotiation will determine whether or not we can become a part of the government.
There are no threshold of 5% in Finland. If there was a law the same as in Lithuania which required all parties, including parties of national minorities, to exceed the 5% threshold, Swedish minority wouldn’t have representatives in the parliament and wouldn’t be represented in the government. Unless it runs in the election together with Åland Coalition which has one seat in the parliament and represents Swedish-speaking Ålands lagting.
How important it is to exempt parties of national minorities from threshold of 5%? In Poland or in Germany there is such an exemption…What approach should be adopted by a democratic country?
“It’s obvious that we’re not in favour of electoral threshold in national elections. When in a system in which the multitude of small parties makes forming a government difficult one may consider introducing such a threshold. However, as a rule in democracy all parties which have obtained the required number of votes should be represented in a parliament. Regional minorities also have the right to take part in making decision which concern them. If the electoral threshold is introduced, some solutions have to be introduced in order to secure the influence of national minorities.
The last question is going to be about NATO. As far as my knowledge is concerned, there is no official position of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland in this matter, however, Carl Haglund endorses such an idea. Has something changed since 2014? Politicians in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia would feel more comfortable if Sweden and Finland joined the Alliance…
After what happened in Ukraine and after recent Russian operations on Baltic Sea and in other places, the issue of Finland’s membership in NATO became a part of the agenda. Our party doesn’t have an official position; our annual congress is debating on that issue in the beginning of June. Our leader has already stated his positive position concerning the membership. It may influence party’s positon. During Carl Haglund’s term as the Minister of Defence the issue of military cooperation with Sweden has moved forward. And that’s much less controversial and therefore we may continue that policy. Similarly, we can continue the cooperation with Nordic countries which already are members of NATO. A lot of us would feel much safer if Finland were a part of NATO but there is still no official position of our party.
Thank you for the interview.
On the photos: election campaign of the party of the Swedish minority in the city Raseborg (Raasepori) in the South of Finland. The Minister of Defence and the leader of SFP / RKP Carl Haglund and the zw.lt’s interviewer Andreas Elfving. Copyright: Sfp i Raseborg.
Tłumaczenie by Barbara Żur w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Barbara Żur within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.