Finland’s municipal elections are scheduled for a week today on 9 April – although many voters will have already cast their ballots long before then. The country’s system of ‘advance voting’ saw polling stations at home and worldwide open for business on Wednesday 29 March and already some 15.2 per cent of the electorate has voted.
Two municipal-specific opinion polls have been released immediately ahead of the local contests: Kantar TNS Gallup for the Helsingin Sanomat paper on 18 March, and Taloustutkimus for the national broadcasting corporation YLE on 31 March. Both show there is almost nothing between the Centre Party (KESK), centre-right National Coalition Party (KOK) and the Social Democrats (SDP), with all three clustered either side of the 19 per cent mark. The Green League (VIHR) is running strongly at 11 and 13 per cent, followed by the populist Finns Party (PS) around 10 per cent.
The polling numbers need to be treated with caution. Most fundamentally, this is not one national contest, but the selection of 9,000 councillors for some 295 local authorities (the island of Aland excluded), with countless local factors coming into play. At the same time some voters may treat the council vote as a mid-term opportunity to pass judgment on the parties’ national performance.
Second, the period of fieldwork for these surveys, as is customary in Finland, stretches over a long period: more than three weeks for both polls. Therefore the extent to which the final weeks of more intense campaigning activity have influenced the opinions reported here is debatable.
Finally the municipal polls do show some slight variences from the four purely national polls carried out so far this year, which have asked about parliamentary voting intentions. Notably the opposition SDP scores a couple of points below the 20-22 per cent it had previously enjoyed. The Finns Party, junior government coalition partner to KESK and KOK, stands at 9.4 and 10.3 per cent for the municipals and has thus advanced a little on its national 8.4 to 9.1 per cent range. However all these figures are well below the 17.7 per cent the Finns picked up in the April 2015 General Election.
One factor that stands out in this campaign is the visibility and strength of the Green vote. With support in all polls in 2017 – both national and municipal – running at between 11.1 and 13.7 per cent, VIHR is well ahead of the 8.5 per cent it gained in the General Election. In the capital Helsinki, the news is even better: a city-specific poll from Kantar TNS placed the party on 24.7 per cent, breathing down the necks of KOK at 25.9.
Among the smaller parties there is little movement compared to the General Election: that includes the Left Alliance (VAS), the Swedish minority RKP and the Christian Democrats (KD).
TALOUSTUTKIMUS 31 March
KESK 18.4, KOK 19.1, SDP 18.8, VIHR 13.3, PS 10.3, VAS 8.3, RKP 5.1, KD 3.6, Others 3.1
Fieldwork: 06.03-28.3.2017. Participants: 2444.
KANTAR TNS GALLUP 18 March
KESK 19.6, KOK 19.0, SDP 19.9, VIHR 11.4, PS 9.4, VAS 9.1, RKP 4.8, KD 3.9, Others 2.9
Fieldwork: 13.02-10.03.2017. Participants: 2246
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