Pastries and ballots for Finland

It’s only suitable that we’re electing a new President on the commemorative day of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, the national poet of Finland. Poetry is like politics: insufferable, beautiful, sometimes cruel, and at best, successful and inspiring.

On the day of big decisions and poetry, I must share the beautiful Finlandia hymn again: the flash mob in Helsinki railway station in support of the other candidate, Pekka Haavisto, cannot leave anyone cold.

J.L Runeberg did not write the lyrics, but he could have. Fortunately, the lyrics have been translated in English, and they are very suitable for today.

No matter who wins the election tonight, something has changed in Finland. The lyrics refer to a threat of the night, which gives plenty of room for interpretation. Old song, old lyrics, and yet, plenty of reference points to today’s society.

In the last parliamentary elections, we gave a lot of power to nationalist bigots. Now, we have woken up and people are on the move. There has been a massive national movement building to support the liberal candidate Pekka Haavisto. His campaign had no money left when votes of the first round were counted. In two weeks, his campaign budget grew, and grew, and grew. They gathered some 500 000 euros over a fortnight. Not a very large sum on global scale, but massive on Finnish scale.

How did it happen?

Normal people, small people, big people, those who are famous and those who are not, all donated money to his campaign. Some gave five euros and 35 cents, some gave a thousand. The rest of us gave something in between. On average, a donation was 25 euros. Imagine! No big money behind the candidate, no corporates – just people.

The values, ideas and thoughts Pekka Haavisto has and represents got many of us moving, talking, buzzing and organizing local events to a degree that the magnitude of it all gave a big surprise to the campaign managers. They had no control over what was happening all over the country as people were taking initiative and making it happen themselves. Social media helped to keep it all together, or at least keep others informed and provide a gateway to take part. It was not about only collecting cash and recruiting, even though that also took place. Money was collected for ads on national newspapers and TV. But most importantly, people wanted to share their savings and ideas, they wanted to take part and take a stand.

I don’t think it has never happened before with such force. The campaign has been very successful and importantly, recognizable.

No matter what happens tonight, we’ll have a new President. Let’s see how the day turns out. The weather is cold, even very cold with the temperature being some 20 degrees below zero, but it’s not snowing downtown Helsinki, the sun is shining and people can go for a coffee after voting and enjoy a traditional pastry that has been named after J.L. Runeberg.

What a good day to take decisions. Go vote!

♥ In the meantime: I will follow the counting of the votes at home via TV and social media. I hope many of you will join me! At least YLE will share some news in English, and I’ll be in Twitter (hashtag most probably #vaalit2012).

♥ Song of the day: Finlandia-hymn (no other choice for me today). Yes, I’m getting sentimental over the elections, and that’s ok. This is actually how it’s supposed to be. People can and do care.

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