My friend is a candidate in the municipal elections. She recently had a talk with a passer-by who had never voted in municipal elections – but still voted in what she considered important elections, such as presidential elections.
This phenomenon can be generalised. Voter turnout in the previous municipal elections was 57.4% in Helsinki, whereas in the presidential elections, a significantly larger proportion of the population, 72.8%, voted.
Despite this, the decisions made locally are the ones that really matter in everyday life. As long as my president is not an orange, bullshitting reality TV character, it does not really matter who sits on the presidential throne. By contrast, decisions made on the municipal level directly influence my everyday life: how much money I have left after housing costs and how many minutes out of my day I need to use for moving from point A to point B.
The youth are lost
Who are the people who do not vote? According to a report by the Finnish Youth Research Society (2011), young people in particular have suffered from a decrease in their motivation to vote. The younger generation in the 1980s were substantially more active voters than young people now. If you do not vote when you are young, you rarely vote when you are older either.
Generally, people tend to vote for candidates who are similar to themselves. People with a family and service sector workers both vote for people like themselves, as do motorists and culture enthusiasts. This does not, however, hold true for young voters. The report found that young people vote for familiar names and experienced politicians. In other words, students do not necessarily vote for students. In the previous municipal elections, I have voted for a person with a doctorate who has been in the parliament for several terms. Despite this person’s ability, their initiatives have not been particularly significant for my own life.
Now I am faced with the following question: who would vote for students if not students themselves?
I do not mean to say that decision-makers of different age and different situations in life would not consider factors that influence students’ lives too. However, issues such as the construction of more student housing might not be high up on the list of priorities for a politician whose average group of voters consists of well-off middle-aged people.
The following sarcasm-dripping verses were sang by Varaque as early as 2003, translated here from the Finnish original: ‘Middle-aged people take care of your affairs/Surely they know how to do their job/All these wretched things are just real politics, you know’. Do not wait for middle-aged people* to take care of your affairs. Vote for a student with your best interests at heart. Vote for a friend as so does everyone else!
You can learn about candidates running in the municipal elections who are also HYY’s members here.
*With ‘middle-aged’ I am here referring to the mental aspects of some decision-makers, not to their chronological age.
The writer is a member of HYY’s Board, a staunch urbanist and a farmer’s daughter.
Member of Board