Elections in English
Municipal elections 2017, Turku
Voting is important
Are you eligible to vote in the Municipal Elections of 2017?
If the answer is yes, then you also should, because these elections will determine much of what happens during the next four years in Turku. Many critical decisions about schools, public healthcare, road networks, public transport, cultural services such as public libraries and their services, youth work, daycare and senior care are made in municipalities. Even if, and when, the social and health services partly or completely move under provincial direction (the much-debated so-called SoTe, or ”sosiaali- ja terveysalan uudistus”), in a way that is still not completely clear and the jurisdiction and financial side are not solved either, the municipalities – in our case, the City of Turku – will still be largely responsible for the everyday life of a citizen in a direct and visible manner.
Voting is important, because if we stay silent of the things that don’t work, the things that feel bad, we let those who allow it to happen or actually promote it will be the only voices heard. So – please, do vote, whomever you vote. It’s the only way to keep Democracy running, and that is what this country stands for and what we need.
Why to vote for Green?
My party, the Greens (Vihreät – De Gröna in our two major official national languages) are making an effort to preserve the municipal public services for every citizen. We begun as an environmentalist movement in the year 1979, when the major, important natural area and bird haven Koijärvi was threatened by draining plans. Koijärvi marsh got spared, much thanks to the movement, and as a result Finland got its first environmental laws and in 1983, its first two elected Green members of the Parliament. Since those years, the movement has grown both in cause and in numbers, and evolving from a marginalised ”hippie” group to a mature political drive. Today, we are a party that is focused in a number of social and economical questions beside the original one, that hasn’t been forgotten: we only have one planet to live on.
The history and the beginnings of our party have sometimes been a burden in the often conservative and quite aged consensus of national and local politics due to the original controversy between preserving and utilizing, but they also always stay with us and have become a strength. The strongest movements always begin at the grassroots level, and we are exactly thus born. We do not forget the first days of the citizen activism on natural treasures to stop the inevitable destruction. We stood up, and we won. Not always, but often enough. We have come a long way though – from a one-cause movement we grew up to be a party that drives for social justice. That term has been mud-painted and tainted and ridiculed with various internet controversies in the last decade, and suffers as heavy a burden as we did from our beginnings. That still doesn’t change the fact that every human being deserves a good life, and social balancing, equality and equal opportunity on the terms of leveling the field, not leaving everyone on their own. The Greens in Finland do not vie for socialism nor do they vie for capitalistic, corporatistic endless economical growth; the Greens in Finland want sustainable growth in all of its forms.
Why would we be a good choice, even perhaps the best choice, then? There are quite a many of a party that claim these things – social eqalitarianism, support for good education, caretaking for the elderly, and even ”5 million shades of green”, as the right-wing party Kokoomus put it. The answer is that we not only claim to want the best for everyone; we do actually honestly work for it. The summary for our political program in these elections can be read in English: for the local level in Turku, here; and for the national level, here. Our goal is to repair the damage done by the current national government that has cut funds from daycare/early years education, peruskoulu primary education, secondary education, healthcare, senior care, disabled support and instead both cut the income tax for high-wage earners, the property tax for the wealthiest populace and the corporation taxation – completely contra their actual promises in these elections. These are not ways to build a better future. They are ways to endanger the balanced, working society. We work for a better tomorrow by supporting education, social care, local economy and sustainable growth that can be enhanced by so-called green economy – renewable energy sources, new kinds of farming technologies, new recycling and waste-utilizing industries. There are much better ways to change the direction of the economy in the municipal level than taking funding away from the future – and most of it can, and will be funded with the same budget, but allocating the money differently.
Why would I be your candidate... if you are an international academic student or worker?
In my view, Turku has always been an international city. It was, from the very beginning, a trade hub between the entire Baltic Sea region and the inland; both the Scandinaves, the Baltics, the Rus and the Karelians have settled here during the unwritten or some time conflagrated prehistory that extends well into the Medieval Era of Europe, the Hanseatic League has traded here (Turku was actually a Hansa town) and the Vikings may well have sought a port in their travels (if they dared, for the Finns had a reputation for being, beside fierce warriors, quite formidable weather witches, a veritable threat for longboat sailors those days). Turku had the first cathedral and the first school, the first bishop and the first university in Finland. Our town has long been a crossroads, both literally and figuratively, and I wish it to be faithful to its history, remaining open, evolving and lively.
Turku has a large number of foreign-origin students in its higher education universities, both in degree programs and in eg. single-period, single-module, half-year or one-year exchange programs. We have six universities packed in a city that is small in an international scale: Turun yliopisto (Turku University), Åbo Akademi (Turku Swedish University), Turun ammattikorkeakoulu (Turku University of Applied Sciences [UoAS]), Yrkeshögskolan Novia (The Novia Swedish UoAS which offers several programs in Turku), Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu DIAK (The Deaconship UoAS that in Turku offers eg. a program for Sign Language translators) and Humanistinen ammattikorkeakoulu HUMAK (The Humanistic UoAS that in Turku has a selection of cultural and social careers). Almost all of these offer also programs and single courses in English, and some do brave the Finnish or Swedish ones even if they came abroad. Many of the universities also take a large number of post-grad and post-doc positions in their research teams, and quite a few people have moved in the city, many with their entire families. There are also teachers, lecturers, professors and researchers participating in exchange programs that stay a shorter or a longer period in the city. This makes it very important for us to take into consideration the needs of these academic immigrants and workers – if we want the city to develop, the economy to grow and our new-technology industry, the medical innovations and the first-line research to continue, Turku cannot be hostile, alien or unapproachable to our guests and permanent residents. We need to approach the subject better and make everyone welcome, to enjoy their longer or shorter period here and to make the services available to everyone. They are there, but the knowledge of municipal services they are entirely entitled to legally cannot depend on volunteer workers such as International Tutors at the universities.
I tutored international students for two and half years – first half-year exchange students, then also degree students, and there used to be a severe lack of information. The Ready, Study, Go! event helps a bit, but it’s mainly directed to first-year native students and is usually too early or too late for the internationals, and there is mostly nothing for those who arrive in January. The city ought to offer one single source of information that can both direct people to right services and bring them together – both for networking among themselves across universities and with locals beside their own colleagues and course mates. Some of my close friends have been exchange students in Turku years ago, and I keep in contact with persons for example from Ukraine, Slovenia, The USA and Japan. We still live in the student apartments in Räntämäki because of my student status and some of my nicest neighbours have been families from eg. Estonia, Croatia, Bangladesh and Libya, the children of which became good friends with mine. Our Tenant Committee (the volunteer organisation that acts for the agreeability of living in the area and a go-between with the tenants and the landlord) has during my years had members from eg. Pakistan, Chile, India, Czech Republic, Libya, Japan, Thailand, Italy and Ukraine. We cherish our international surroundings, because it makes the place livelier. For some reason internationals often are also more active in the voluntary activities than the natives, and often they are intrigued by this. Perhaps we Finns are somewhat hesitant to participate and become proactive, however much we would like our surroundings to be enjoyable and practical.
Why would I be your candidate... if you immigrated here either for work, for asylum or for family?
It was only a little over 70 years ago that Finland was in war. Those familiar with the history know that our country fought against the Soviet Union and its overwhelming forces – at least by numbers – but managed to stay unoccupied and independent, despite the consequential war reparations and continuous checking for acceptance for political decisions from both the East and the West. Finland managed to pay the reparations to a penny, in schedule, and as the only Axis-attached country to do so. In 1940, however, the government had sought allies from Germany, and while that might have been a valid solution at the time, especially not knowing the full extent of the Final Solution, later it became a terrible burden and resulted in the withdrawal of support from most of the Allied countries, at least until the New Deal came into politics in the aftermath. We lost large tracts of land to the Soviet Union in making the peace treaty. Among those areas were our only access to the Arctic Sea, Petsamo, with its mostly untapped natural resources and the railway to the sea, called the left arm of Finland; Salla, at the ”breast”, with old forests and some mineral deposits, Hanko (which only was forcibly rented to the Soviet Union as a military base, for 50 years, and has since been returned) and Carelia (Karjala in finnish), ”the left leg” one of the culturally richest regions and our access to Lake Ladoga, some important waterways and three of our major cities (then towns) Viipuri (Wiborg), Käkisalmi and Sortavala.
My mother’s father’s family originated in the Carelian municipality of Muolaa and left twice as refugees from war – in 1939, when the Winter War begun with a flash attack and in 1944, when the Eastern Karelian front started folding in with a massive Soviet attack. My mother’s parents met during the war in Lappeenranta – my grandfather was a soldier, removed from the front lines due to his mother’s petition after his two older brothers died in 1940 only weeks in between and their mother read the news from the newspaper, because somehow the local parish failed to inform them; and my mother’s mother was living in the town with relatives after her father had died and the mother remarried and moved abroad to Soviet Karelia with the elder children. The family only later learned that she and the most of her family died in Stalin’s purifications on a prison camp in Sibiria, and the only survivor was my mother’s uncle who wrote to them during the late 60’s when the political situation eased a bit. My maternal grandparents got married posthaste in 1944 and my uncle was born after Lappeenranta was evacuated, too, at the time Wyborg fell, and the young couple with their relatives was moved from place to place. During those times, Finland managed to evacuate almost every citizen from the war-ravaged areas, and relocate them to assigned municipalities across the country, village by village, city block by city block, and railed them into first gathering places such as schools, village or labour gathering halls and church halls, then assigned into country houses, rented rooms, even attics, sauna dressing rooms, former laundry houses and various utility buildings into the countryside. Because of it being legally reguired, mostly every household did their duty and housed the strangely-speaking in-country refugees, some of them of a different church (Russian Orthodox), and all of them of a different mentality and dialect. They didn’t do it badly, but it doesn’t mean they liked it. Sometimes the Karelians were received well, sometimes less than friendly. In most cases too many people under the same roof started to chafe and rub each other the wrong way sooner or later, and everyone benefited from the Karelians receiving reparations for the lost property (the state actually managed to refund some of the losses) and beneficies for building a small so-called ”front line soldier house” – the typical cube-shaped, wooden small house painted in bright colours and surrounded by a garden with peonies, apple trees and berry bushes and a hawthorn hedge that you have definitely seen in every Finnish town and village and that dominates the neighbourhoods of a certain age – and starting a small-time farm or family business.
This however meant that suddenly, Finland was full of displaced people, torn off their roots and most, if not all of them, had lost family members in the wars. There was also the unspoken and shallowly buried other national trauma – the events of 1918 civil war, where the Whites and the Reds aka. conservatives and socialists divided the country and took personal revenge to a deep end, until it ended bloodily in prison camps and hasty executions after the whites won, avenging what the reds had done after taking over before that – which had been swiped under the carpet for unity during the Winter War, but now affected the attitudes behind the scenes. Between the division lines of religion (Lutheran vs. a small minority of Orthodox), dialects (Karelians vs. all the other locals), mentality (lively and talkative Karelian vs. the silent Finn stereotype), social situation (landed vs. displaced, impoverished vs. steady income), family status (married vs. widowed, orphaned vs. with parents alive though traumatised), political attitude (right wing vs. left wing – this was a dangerous decision to take after losing to the Soviet) and health status (ill or war injured vs. healthy, disabled vs. abled, malnourished vs. well-fed) the situation after the wars was definitely not easy. During the next decades, the Karelians re-established their place in the society and economy, but the wounds of the war have not really healed, still, after two or three generations. The last Veterans are passing now, but some of the youngest evacuees (evakko in Finnish) still remember.
In this light, it is on other hand quite understandable that some Finns are hesitant or reluctant to receive immigrants – because they perhaps unconsciously remember the difficulties, but even more so because they themselves are still rootless, uncertain of their status and the constancy of their place and their safety, and afraid of change because they fear that they become lost again, that they themselves become displaced. It reminds us too much of our own cultural memory of fugitivity, cultural suppression and the threat of losing an entire nation and its culture and language to foreign oppression and forced assimilation. During the Russian era between 1809 and 1917, the Finnish state, government, culture and language were alternatively cherished and developed by Governor and Czar endorsement, or suppressed, limited, overwritten by Russian or even completely forbidden by law. This memory still lives in the national consciousness and haunts our daily attitudes towards foreign influences. That does not make xenophobia, exclusion or outright racism acceptable at all.
Because our own roots as an oppressed, poor and neglected small nation we must not forget those who come here seeking a new life, for any reason. We need to remember who we are and how we ourselves were received – ill or well – and what it made us to be. Finland has always been international, because of its position between the influences of East and West Europe, and because of its location along the major sailing trade routes. It still is located in the same place, both geographically and culturally. We didn’t become a major innovation hub by accident. We’ve always been innovative, and entrepreneurial, because we have had to survive. We can also survive the changes that are happening right now. Finland has always been able to integrate people, from the Bronze Age to the Hanseatic Age to the Tatars who came in the 19th Century. From refugrees, the Chileans who came in the early 80’s have integrated, and so have the Vietnamese who came in the 80’s and 90’s. A greater challenge has been with those who came in the 90’s, when the economy was also in a deep depression. Among those groups are the first Somali – many of whom have well integrated and the children of whose are second- or third-generation Finns and nationals by now – the first Iraqi and those who left the former Yugoslavia during the civil wars. Attitudes have hardened towards the foreign-origined, and the phenomenon isn’t alone in an European scale. The Greens in Europe have worked against segregation, racism and exclusion, but we need everyone to participate – we are not alone, far from it because other political and social movements agree, but the change has to come from the citizens in the end.
How we receive everyone else reflects to the society. Not every job requires a perfect score in Native-Level Finnish, nor does everyone need to have an ethnically Finnish name or a pale face or uncovered hair. We must recognise that we are not alone in the world, and that seeing other cultures among ourselves does not take away our own. The only one who can make our culture and language disappear is us ourselves – by not knowing, not understanding and not appreciating it. Not all cultural practices are good, there are bad ones in every culture – suppression of emotions is unhealthy, FGM is outright terrible, and genders must have equal rights – but those that matter are important and can be included, understood and have a place in our society. I believe, and I do work towards it, that you should have a place in the society and can feel welcome in here.
My Turku is international, safe, equal and friendly - for everyone
My reasons for being a candidate and belonging to the Greens are simple in this regard: I want Turku to be the city I initially fell in love with. I came from a then-small town in Southeast Finland, Kouvola, that has since been merged into a large conglomerate city with the nearby areas, but it still struggles to shed the xenophobia and insularity I encountered as a youth. Upon moving to Turku, I saw a city that I was able to breath in. It felt like coming home, and in a couple of years it became clear that I would stay here. My spouse agreed, and our family is rooted in this city as our children have been born here, and one of them, a stillborn full-term son also rests in this soil. Turku is our home, and I want to work towards it being a good home for me, my family, but also for everyone else.
My personal experienses with this city, especially bureucracy-wise, vary from good to discouraging to honestly injust. It has gotten better, though, and some of the wildest idiocies in the social services have since been eradicated, for everyone’s best interests. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect though, and I mean to work towards better resources and practices for social services, services for the disabled and the special needs children for example. My own youngest son is 3,5 years old and suffers from Specific Linguistic Impairment, meaning that he needs a lot of rehabilitation, excersise and support to gain normal linguistic abilities despite being above average intelligent and otherwise developing normally for the age. Through this, I have started getting glimpses – or actually, fallen headfirst to the sea of different support applications, services, reports, appointments and other obscure and little-known services that have become the everyday life for our family. Did you know that every family with children is entitled to a temporary help (home services, an actual person coming to help with children, housework or nursing) if in need, the fee tied to income and to small-income families, entirely free? Or did you know that for less-than-well-off small-income families are entitled to apply for support money for children’s hobbies, if it can be expected to prevent loneliness or social exclusion? Were you aware that a breastfeeding help clinic exists within the TYKS (University Hospital) and mother-child pairs (and definitely with multiples like twins!) are entitled to get there for help? Families need to be informed better, and the services made available. Otherwise they are not going to get used by those whom they are meant for, and sooner or later removed as apparently ”needless”.
Green Party Politics and myself, in simplified English
I am a candidate in the Municipal Elections this year, 2017.
In these elections we select the people who represent all citizens and make decisions for the next 4 years.
Voting is important because schools, social work, health care, libraries, public transport (buses) and other very important daily things we need are decided locally. The elected people decide them.
I run for a position in Turku. I am a candidate for The Green Party.
Green Party is a group that begun with the environmental movement. Now it works for social equality, too.
We want to make this city, Turku, a good place for everyone to live in.
It is important to me that nobody suffers from racism, prejudice or wrong images about immigrants.
I want to make Turku a city that everyone can call their home.
One tool to make this happen is to give money to schools that have many immigrant children or children of foreign background.
Another thing that helps is to see which children need special support in daycare and in schools. We must help them early, in time to get them learn Finnish and aid their learning. Everyone should have a good education and be able to work in a job.
My third main goal is to make certain that everyone gets the help they need. If someone needs money support, they have to get it. If they need therapy after coming from a war zone, they must have it. If there is something people need to become a part of this society, they have to get it.
Immigrants, refugees and foreign workers need better information in English or their own language. I want to approach people with easy-to-understand text to make certain that as many as possible will use their right to vote. Ask your social worker if you don’t know if you can vote now.
Voting starts today. Pre-elections are held from Wednesday 29th March to Tuesday 4th April. They are a week long.
The actual Election Day is Sunday 9th April.
You can vote either in pre-elections in any place you want
OR on Election Day in the place written down in your information letter you got from the ministry.
You may vote only once, but every vote matters.
Please, do vote. It’s important.
I’m also happy if you vote for me, or my party the Greens.
The most important thing is that you vote in any case.
Kati Laine, candidate number 152
Mother, Degree Student in Education (Schoolteacher-in-Training)
I am 36, a mother of three (a daughter of 9 years, a stillborn son at 2012, a son of 3,5 years), married and I live with my family in Räntämäki, Turku. I moved here over 15 years ago and Turku has since become my home. I am a slow-progressing (because of my life situation) degree student at the Turku University, Faculty of Education, Teacher Training College. I have some work experience from substituting teachers at different schools in the city, mostly low-income areas’ primary schools at the suburbs. I liked that work and I hope to do it once I graduate.
My hobbies include many different crafts, historical re-enactment and anything involving that, reading literature and watching series, but also gardening, outdoors and besides that, I co-lead girl scout cubs once a week. I love music and would like to make more of it, something I do with my daughter. I also do RPG (tabletop roleplaying), some computer gaming and an occasional LARP (live action RPG). I dedicate some of my time for volunteering and association activities in various groups. I’ve been with the Turku Greens since 2008.