Voting advice applications, panel discussions for chairpersons and candidates. Promises, dealbreakers and solutions. Flyers and election campaign coffee. City streets and village roads full of people running their campaigns, working towards a better Finland. Elections are now a part of our everyday lives everywhere from public transport to cafés and grocery stores. Why should you be interested in them?
There are two elections coming up in the next couple of months: the parliamentary and the European Parliament elections. These elections will determine the direction of our country. If you want the society and Europe twenty years from now to reflect the vision of millennials instead of baby boomers, I suggest checking out the location of your nearest polling station. It is time for us to become more visible in decision-making: in order to bridge the gap of inequality between generations, we must make decisions that create confidence in the uncertain future that is full of questions ranging from the accessibility of education to the sustainability of the pension system – in other words, the rest of our lives.
According to the recently published Youth Barometer, more than 60 percent of young people are at least somewhat interested in politics. The percentage has increased, and this development is definitely positive. Young people see the future of Europe as bright, and two-thirds think that being a member of the European Union is a good thing for Finland.
At the same time, young people feel more uncertain and insecure than ever before because of climate change and the global political situation. Toddlers, children, young people and students are taking part in climate strikes and demanding the policymakers to take action to stop climate change. Demonstrations and public debate are an important part of democracy. Young people’s active citizenship is a positive sign for the future.
In addition to making placards for demonstrations, we people of voting age must also write down the number of our candidate on the ballot paper in the polling booth. The way this country will be led for the next four years and the decisions made in the European Union will have an impact on the future – and not the least because climate change, among other things, demands concrete, hard actions right now.
If you, young person or student, will not exercise your right to vote, the voice of our generation will not be heard in the corridors of the Finnish or the European Parliament. The people who are decades older than us will certainly vote: in the 2015 parliamentary elections, 80 percent of people aged between 55–69 years voted, while only 47 percent of people aged between 18–24 years exercised their right to vote. The total voter turnout in the last parliamentary elections was 69 percent of those eligible to vote. Only 10 percent of young people voted in the European Parliament elections, while the total voter turnout in Finland was 39 percent. In other words, our future was decided by people who do not have to live with the consequences of their decisions.
Even if the previous generations would remember the golden days of their youth and what it was like to be a student, the world was a completely different place then than it is today. Let’s put it this way: would you let your parents decide what you should study, who to hang out with or what to have for lunch? That’s right. So why should you let them decide what kind of a society and world you will live in twenty years from now?
Finding a suitable candidate may be challenging, but there are several voting advice applications to make the decision easier. In addition to the result, you should also read the candidates’ reasoning behind their answers. In addition to finding out more about the logic and thought process of the candidates, you may learn something new. Also consider your own values: what are the values that guide your actions and that you would you like to see in politics? Political decisions are ultimately based on these values, and the most visible manifestation of them is deciding who should get the money and who should not.
A few tips for the spring elections: vote for a candidate who wants to prioritise high-quality and accessible education. Education is the only way to guarantee equality and safety in our society. Vote for a candidate who wants to increase the income of students to the same level with other beneficiaries. Vote for a candidate who wants to improve the mental health of young people. Without healthy young people and students capable of studying, we will have no one to build our future. Vote for a candidate who understands that the planet must be saved now.
Also make sure that, in addition to your candidate, their party represents the values that are important to you. In our electoral system, your vote goes first to the party, then to the candidate. For more information on where the different political parties stand on the student union movement’s election objectives, visit our campaign website at koulutustaprkl.fi.
Every generation should have their “thing”, something revolutionary. I personally will be pleased if we can start a revolution by voting for candidates who are willing to stand for students and young people. The fact is that in a democracy, change in political power can only happen where the power is used: in the institution that represents the people.
We are the youth and the future. We are also very much the present and we have to let it show in this spring’s elections. I have faith in us.