The epic moments during 2014 European election campaign in Helsinki

Leadership

Below is a blog-entry from 2014, which was previously published on the European Women Lobby’s 50/50 gender parity campaign. European Women Lobby’s political mentoring network was the first of its kind at European level and it is inspired by a mentoring programme developed by KVINFO in Denmark. I have kept it here, as it brings great memories. As a member of this mentoring network, I got a chance to come to Finland to meet some of the strongest women of Finland and hear about their life as politicians and private persons. It was just a month before I moved to Helsinki from Copenhagen. I am an advocate of all mentoring programs as they simply do work and create a lasting impact.

  • Moikka, haluaisitko seloste? Hi, would you like a leaflet?

“Campaigning, networking, debating and simply being present in Helsinki in 30-degrees heat!”  This is how a day before the European Parliament elections in Helsinki can be described, where I participated as a part of European political mentoring network on May 24th, 2014 in Helsinki.
It was an exciting trip as I would move to Finland in few months. I was thrilled to meet other Finns besides Osmo and his immediate network.

Venue: World Village Festival:

Politicians shadowed:

What striked me the most in terms of campaigning was that Helsinki was not covered in election posters as was the case in Copenhagen. The posters of candidates were only seen on the bus stops or big banners in the city.

In order to shadow Sirpa, I had to find her campaigning team and assistant Aino. That was easy thanks to yellow T-shirts. I got one too! During the day, I had a chance to hear her debate, giving out leaflets to passers-by and see Sirpa moderate a debate with Jussi Ahokas and Lauri Holappa, the authors of a new economics book about Post Keynesian ideas in Finland. Much of the debates was translated by Anna-Leena Häyhä, the European Women Lobby staff, who came from Brussels to assist me in the shadowing. Thanks Anna-Leena for being there.

Most of the EP elections campaigns took place at the “Maailma kylässä” World Village festival (similar to Diversity festival in Copenhagen) and the marketplace literally resembled a floating Parliament.

Having spoken to politicians, it was once again clear that political success is based on active participation in societal issues, negotiation & personal branding as you mature with each election campaign. The latter repeats itself after the EWL capacity building sessions in Brussels with Mette Rix. Lesson learned from Sirpa: face each person with a leaflet with the confidence and dare to start a dialogue with anybody and just be switched “ON”. The last day before election day is sort of the climax of the election campaign.

Considering Nordic countries and the Finnish context of diversity, it seems to be “the moment to get into Nordic politics as the society ready to embrace change on multicultural debate”. This was the case for Nasima Razmyar, Afghan-born Finnish candidate. She said that according to a local survey among students, Finnish youth does want immigrants to come. They like international environment and want to see Finland as such. Amen for that, as I believe it is still work in progress…

 

How to be newsworthy in the Troubled EU politics?

EU politics are a bit too distant from the local ears and eyes and I found it hard anywhere to engage people in the debate. Even if you engage, it turns black and white. With recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it has actually meant a lot for Anneli Jäätteenmäki. Though the sanctions towards Russia affected the daily lives of Finnish people dependent on trade especially near the Russian border, it was an exciting change for her campaigning.  Ukraine/Russia was in the media and Anneli, as a member in the foreign affairs committee, she was invited to share her views in the radio, Finnish newspapers e.g. http://www.karjalainen.fi/ etc.  Border towns are dependent on Russian tourists and sanctions would greatly affect trade and economy. She is against economic sanctions and the focus is to have an EU in order to create a common position with any EU policy being adopted.

Nasima has been on a TV show “Dancing with the Stars” which has also given her a wide recognition. So it can be not only what you know and how you serve your voters interests as a politician but also what happens externally, outside their control.

 

Diversity of gender vs. Diversity of thought: experienced vs. young politicians

Politicians’ age has also been a debate and whether in the EU we need a pure experience to take the troubled Union to success or we simply need “fresh blood and power of new eyes”. Sirpa and Anneli support both men and women, who are capable and experienced in their circle regardless of their age. So the diversity of thought goes hand in hand with diversity of gender.

Nasima, active in promoting equality, social justice as well as employee and consumer rights said she got a national recognition for her work regardless of her age. She is convicted that people are positive about the EU and they do want action and new energy.

As a bonus, I also got to speak to other candidates such as Alexander Stubb, Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade also from the National coalition party and Ozan Yanar from the Finnish Green party, Vihreä.

All in all, it has been a fresh update on EP campaigning in Finland where it was actually possible to connect the dots: Global issues > the EU> National politics > Candidates profiles. It shows how interconnected and interdependent the world is and no country cannot act on it alone.

I thank EWL for the opportunity, Sirpa, Anneli, Nasima and the assistants Aino, Suvi and Leena for letting me chip in and meet these daring, giving and hard-working politicians. As this mentoring was to push more migrant women into politics, learning from other strong women is a great support and encouragement. I felt my networking was in a good spiring where “strong women lift each other up.” I wish best of luck to all of the candidates.

 

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