Dagens Nyheter wouldn’t be Dagens Nyheter if it didn’t bring us a daily dose of Swedocentrism.
Back in 2000, DN made a memorable effort to convince its readers that there was no chance in hell that the conservative (=underdeveloped) Finns would elect an un-married Socialist woman as president. The woman in question was Tarja Halonen. Today, columnist Karin Rebas faced a similar problem. Finnish economic growth is projected to be higher than the Swedish (4,9% against 4,2%) and, believe it or not, Finland’s GDP per capita is higher than Sweden’s (USD 32,900 against USD 31,600). If anything, the Swedes ought to be copying the Finns.
This is of cause a no-no to any progressive Swede and fortunately Rebas was able to find a fatal flaw in Finnish democracy: The turn-out in national elections.
In 1998 and 2002, any enlightened Swede would be agonising endlessly over the low turn-out in national elections. In 1998, the turn-out was 81,4% and in 2002 a measly 80,1%. Disaster was looming. (Things improved in 2006 when turn-out increased to 82%)
But how about Finland? Well, the Finns are less keen to vote as the following table shows:
|Party||Avg 25/10-10/10||Avg 6/11-10/11|
|Danish People's Party||12,6||12,3|
Is this a problem? And if it is: What can be done about this?
Unsurprisingly, Karin Rebas thinks this is a sign of a profound crisis in Finnish democracy and prescribes a Swedish solution: Instead of a three-way contest between the Social Democrats, the Centre Party and the Conservative Party, Finns would be so much better off if they only had the choice between the Social Democrats and… and… and… well, who?
If Rebas had bothered to do her homework instead of projecting Swedish desires on Finland, she would have noted that
- turn-out increased in Denmark during the 1990s and early 2000s when it was stagnating or falling in Sweden (hint: The Danish People’s Party mobilises blue-collar voters)
- that turn-out in Finland has always been 10-15 percentage points below the level in Sweden
- that turn-out in Norway – which is also lower than in either Sweden or Denmark – only rose marginally between 2001 and 2005 when Norwegian voters faced the desired clear choice between left and right – and, finally:
- that first-past-the-post systems – which are said to give the clear left-right choice – usually have a far lower turn-out than the Nordic PR systems. Check the British 2005 election for a case in point.
But the idea that Swedes might have one or two lessons to learn from Danes or Finns is of cause unthinkable.