(I figured I will just write this in English since I would have to do that anyway and everyone reading this probably reads English well, so why do it twice.)
163. That’s where I ended up, that’s how many wanted me to serve in the city council.
First of all, thank you. Really. That is a lot of people. Not enough to put me in the council but still a lot. I was left about 30 votes shy of a reserve position, so that was pretty close. An actual council seat would have needed more than twice as much so there is no “if” with that. Still, I can’t feel too bad. For a first timer that’s a good number of votes.
Also, I was close enough to getting a spot that I will most definitely get some sort of board position in city administration. A number of those always go outside the council members and reserves and I was the 5th one in our party. So there are some concrete results from this. Again, thank you.
But more importantly, there is something I have realised from this. The 163 people have sent a clear message that I cannot ignore. What I have said over the last few months has obviously resonated with people. They showed that by voting for me.
About 5 months ago I had not even decided if I would get into politics. On Sunday evening I was the 33rd (out of 100) green party candidate on the list with 163 votes. That does not make me a council member but it makes me a player in the game. If someone was thinking that I’m not fully invested or otherwise not necessary in the party since I came aboard so recently, no one is thinking that anymore.
When the results rolled in I felt a little disappointed. Mostly because I got so close. I have said over the last several weeks that I had no idea how well the campaign was going. I had nothing to compare it to. Well I do now.
Not that I ever got into this thinking that it would just be a one-time shot in the dark, but I really wasn’t sure what I would do with regard to politics if I didn’t go through. I knew it would take some time to figure that out. I guess it took about 30 seconds.
I have received 2 new likes on my Facebook page after the results came in. After they came in. That cannot be a show of support for the campaign, not anymore. Those people expect that page to still be there in the future. They expect me to keep working. Out of the current 150 those 2 likes may well be the most important. They force me to remember that I have work to do.
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
Maybe I wasn’t quite ready or maybe this wasn’t the time. But this certainly was the thing. I have felt tired, frustrated, scared, embarrassed and stupid during the past 4 months. But all of the time I have felt right.
There is another election coming in about 9 months. I think I just barely learned how to campaign in the last week and that still landed me 163 votes. I know I’m supposed to just relax now and be happy for our party’s success. I am, but that’s not enough. I’m not satisfied. 163 is not enough. There is work to be done. And I’ve never been one to shy away from a fight.
As Ernest Hemingway put it:
The shortest answer is doing the thing.
I am not done.
So, the election draws close. I wanted to take one more chance to write in English before we get to the big day. If for no other reason, at least to remind everyone one more time how important it is to vote. Only 20% of immigrants did so last time so if we could bump that number up, you might actually change the outcome dramatically. See my previous post about the subject here. I have no idea how many non-finns ever read this blog but I’m an optimist.
I had a great conversation about voting (and bicycles and traffic and education… but really mostly bicycles) with an American who has been living in Finland for a few years and now gets to vote for the first time. He had already lived in the Netherlands and Denmark (hence the bicycles) but was never able to vote in those countries. He was very clearly excited about getting to do it for the first time in years. I wish everyone felt that way about democracy. And he is the perfect example for immigrants. He didn’t know much about the issues in Tampere so he asked me about them. The important thing for him was simply the opportunity to vote. So please do follow his lead!
My big theme, students
My number one theme for this election is students and schools (and education in general is the key theme of the green party) but I only recently talked about it in this blog. So let’s summarize a little in English.
Students make up one sixth of the population of Tampere. International students make up a big proportion of students so I know I have a potential audience here. The student population lives with all the consequences of the decisions made in the city council, on top of which they have many needs that the general population does not. They are in many cases much more vulnerable than other low-income residents. So I really hope they show their strength in this election.
International students are eligible to vote under the same rules as anybody else. An EU-citizen can vote after having lived in the city for 51 days. People from outside EU need to have lived in Finland for two years. Doesn’t matter if it’s permanent or temporary as long as you fill that criteria. And many of the decisions made at city level will affect internationals. Anywhere from housing to transportation and medical services.
Even though it is a national level issue instead of a city one, I just want to mention that I strongly oppose any tuition fees for international students. Our free education is one of the great prides of the nordic welfare state and it needs to be free for everybody.
To keep this text at a reasonable length, here are some bullet points with regard to students:
That is a very quick overview of the things that I find important. There is of course much more depth to all of it. If you’re still undecided about your vote, you can always contact me for more. I would be delighted.
One more thing
I would feel wrong if I didn’t mention one last thing, even though it has nothing to do with the upcoming election. I am frustrated that this thing exists for me to have to talk about, but it does.
This week our nation displayed a level of petty politics and sad cowardice that I did not expect to have to witness. This week a plane full of Afghan men, women, boys and girls, families, left Helsinki for Kabul. For a place that they had fled in fear for their lives. A place torn in anarchy and suppressed in tyranny was decided to be safe for the people who left because they were afraid that they were going to die. Decided to be safe, not found to be. This week we sent families to their death.
There is this old saying in rural Finland that I remember being cited some months ago. It translates roughly to “we won’t send anyone into the night”. It comes from a time when travel was slow and it was not uncommon for someone to find themselves in need of a warm place for the night. So travelers might simply show up at the door of a farmhouse asking to spend the night.
The general rule – as far as I understand – was that during the day it was ok to turn them away. This was not about hospitality. But in the evening it was clear that the cold night might be dangerous. The travelers were generally accommodated for the night and left in the morning. They were strangers, not guests.
These people came to our door. Whatever their reason for leaving, they came. And they asked us for help. And we sent them into the night.
So for whatever it’s worth, I do not stand with my country’s leaders. I will not send anyone into the night. For any future reference, if coming times find me in a position of power, let me just say it as clearly as I can.
Not on my watch.
Not even once.
To start, apologies. When I set up my campaign page on Facebook I promised to also post things in English. I haven’t, this is the first. Sorry about that.
As it turns out, all this campaign stuff is more time (and energy) consuming than I thought. First time is a learning experience I guess. Obviously posting the first non-Finnish thing with just a month left until the election is not really good enough. So two things have to be said.
First, there will not be that much content in English. I have created a summary section where I will try to outline my thinking a little but the blog will only see a handful of English posts at best. There is simply next to nothing I could only address in English and after writing things in Finnish it becomes a tricky priority question to either do the same thing again or do something else that needs doing. So here we are.
But second, and I can’t stress this enough, my priorities have not changed. Not one bit. Services for and wellbeing of immigrants is one of my key themes in this election and in my politics in general. I even included an English summary in my campaign flyer to carry that point across. Come say hi at Keskustori to pick one up. :)
You can vote!
My actual point for this blog post however is to remind all non-Finnish nationals that many of you are in fact eligible to vote. It’s true! You don’t need to be a citizen of Finland to vote in the municipal elections. You only need to fill one of two criteria. Either 1) Be a citizen of an EU country or Iceland or Norway and have a Finnish city or town as your official residence or 2) Be from ANYWHERE else and have lived in Finland for two consecutive years.
Obviously if you are a citizen there is no question, you can always vote. But even most students who only spend a few years in Finland are eligible. So long as their official home town has been Finnish for two years. Only about 20% of the foreign nationals eligible to vote did so in the last election. So it’s clear that many are simply unaware.
So mark April 9th in your calendars! Tell your friends! Exercise your democratic right! And even better, vote for a candidate that cares about you and your wellbeing in this country.
Because I do. And so do many others.
If I haven’t met you personally and haven’t had a chance to say it:
Welcome. I mean it.
Tamperelainen toimittaja ja ehdokas kaupunginvaltuustoon kuntavaaleissa 2017.