The Finnish Church in Rotherhithe

London’s Finns vote in tight Finnish election

London’s Finnish community are voting early in their national election that takes place on 2 April.

The estimated 10,000 Finns that reside in the city have voted by post or at the embassy in Belgravia.

Mervi Mattila, service manager at The Finnish Church in Rotherhithe, said the election has been a hot topic among her community.

She said: “There is always talk of elections, as Finns are quite proud of their right to vote and take it seriously.

“I think Finns living abroad are not as party loyal as Finns may be in Finland. You gain a different perspective to things when living far away, but on the other hand you also are not so involved in daily life and effects of politicians’ decisions.”

Outside of Finland's embassy
THE PLACE TO VOTE: The Finnish Embassy at 38 Chesham Place. Credit: Stephen Richards, licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Polls currently put Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats tied for second with the hard-right Finns Party, while the centre-right National Coalition Party has remained only slightly ahead of both entering the final weeks.

Nine parties have polled at two percent or higher in recent weeks, and Antti Mantymaa, a Brixton-based nurse, contrasted this political diversity with the UK.

Mantymaa said: “The Finnish parliament is much more representative of different political views than the British parliament due to the electoral system that gives a fair chance to smaller parties. 

“So it’s very likely that the person you’re interacting with doesn’t support the same party as you! 

“Having said that, I talk a lot about Finnish as well as British politics with my UK based Finnish friends.”

Mantymaa also made note of the other differences between Finnish and UK elections, including debates.

She said: “In Finland it’s much more common than in the UK to have live TV debates between political leaders, most networks have their own and you can follow them online. 

“I don’t know why they’re so reluctant to do those in this country.”

Finns are able to partake in advanced voting from abroad between 23 and 25 March.

Paula Hämäläinen, a TV Development Executive, said: “Travelling to the Finnish Embassy to vote is my highlight of the week. 

“It’s fun to suddenly be surrounded by so many of my fellow Finns in the middle of Knightsbridge.”

Tables of Finnish snacks at the Easter Fair
FINNISH CULTURE IN THE CAPITAL: The Finnish Church’s Easter Fair

The Finnish community has a proud tradition in the city, with groups such as the Finnish Church, The Anglo-Finnish Society and the Finnish Institute in the UK and Ireland promoting the nation’s culture and diaspora.

The Finnish Church is running their Easter fair this weekend, selling food and wares both from Finland and UK-based Finnish producers.

Mantymaa said: “There’s plenty of Finnish culture in the capital, such as cafés serving Finnish food and treats, Finnish bands performing in London clubs, Finnish films shown in London cinemas, museums and galleries featuring work by Finnish artists, and the Finnish Church which is also a social and cultural hub and famous for its Easter and Christmas fairs. 

“Even the chief conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra is from Finland!”

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