Julkaistu HSTV:ssä 20.4.2016
Haastattelija: David Mac Dougall
Keskusta politician Antti Kurvinen says he thinks fellow Centre Party activists in urban areas ”don’t have self-esteem” and ”are a little bit afraid to say they are centrists”.
The freshman MP makes his comments today on the new episode of HSTV’s English-language current affairs show Newsmakers.
”I think we should have more courage also in Helsinki and in southern Finland, because I think many Centre Party politicians and members of our party are in cities […] and they don’t want to talk about our values”.
The Centre Party – or Keskusta in Finnish – has traditionally had an agrarian support base with party members favouring traditional values and pro-countryside policies. However, there has been a shift in the party recently, attracting more younger members, gaining ground in urban areas, and having progressive party leaders. The last Centre Party Prime Minister was a woman, and the current Prime Minister Juha Sipilä is a self-made millionaire. Neither fit the stereotype of a typical Keskusta politician.
”One group that is really growing in our party is small enterprise people, people who maybe have one worker, or maybe they are just working alone in their companies, and they are really enthusiastic about Mr Sipilä” says Kurvinen.
He also cites immigrants as an emerging force within the Centre Party youth group. ”They see us as a very moderate option […] we are always respecting human rights, we have zero tolerance for racism” he says.
It’s been a year since the 2015 general election in Finland which brought the Centre Party to power in a coalition with the Finns Party and National Coalition Party. In that time, the government has struggled to live up to its ambitious job creation plans.
In election manifestos, the Centre Party promised to create 200,000 jobs in ten years. But statistics show the plan is already falling far short of its goals. Only 68% of Finns are in employment, with a long standing target of 72% not likely to be met any time soon.
”We haven’t got to the goals yet” admits Kurvinen.
”I think if we bring hope to our economy, there will be more investments, more jobs and I think we are doing it every day”. In recent weeks the government has announced various new measures to encourage flexibility in the workplace; make it easier for people to start their own business; or reduce red tape for entrepreneurs. However, meaningful structural reform has so far eluded successive Finnish governments, while competitors in Sweden and Germany went through their own labour market reforms more than a decade ago, which are only now paying post-recession dividends.
”For many reasons the Finnish companies are not investing to Finland, and Finland is not looking very good target for investments in the global perspective” says MP Kurvinen. Finland is often cited as being 15% less competitive in unit labour costs than neighbouring Sweden.
The need to help Finnish business, while at the same time staying true to the values expected of core Keskusta supporters in the countryside, has caused an ideological rift in the party, which Kurvinen concedes is ”hard” to reconcile.
”I think the biggest problem inside our party is that some of our voters think we are only thinking about Finnish economy and Finnish business and we aren’t enough thinking about how are doing poor people in the countryside, how are doing workers like nurses” says Kurvinen.
”The discussion inside the party is are we doing enough for poor people, are we doing enough for people who are living in villages in countryside. But I think also in cities, we should talk about ethical issues more, we should talk about what is ethical economy”.
”Is it ethical to cut from students, how we should reform our education system, is it really possible for every Finnish young person to study in university?” asks Kurvinen.
The coalition government lead by Centre Party Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has targeted hundreds of millions of euros in education cuts and savings, forcing thousands of job cuts at Finnish universities, and slashed financial aid for students.