Today I like to tell a bit about the special position you have as a foreigner when it comes to voting in Finland. The issue came up some time ago at a meeting of the Greens in which I participated. What are the democratic rights of a foreigner in Finland? It seems that it is either more than you think or less than you think.
Of course when you have a Finnish passport, you are a Finn. We are not allowed to discriminate according to gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation or whatever. So with a Finnish passport come Finnish rights. That's the easy one. It's different when you don't have a Finnish passport. My inability to learn Finnish always prevented me from making that application, So I remain Dutch. That's not a punishment, but it makes my stay here permanently temporary, if you know what I mean.
Because Finns and Dutchies are both EU-citizens we have this law that everyone who lives 5 years permanently in some municipality can vote and be voted for in that municipality. That's nice. It makes you feel more a part of a community when you are granted rights like that.
In the Netherlands I also could have voted for the government at regional level (Say Häme), but foreigners in the Netherlands don't have that right and in Finland there is no such elected government. What counts in Finland is parliament and president. Both of which I cannot vote for.
I can vote for the parliament of the Netherlands (the commons). I belong to the voting district of The Hague (Haag)! It's a big voting district because every Dutchie abroad belongs to it. If all those people abroad voted it would have a huge impact on Dutch politics. But they don't. You have to tackle some bureaucracy before you can vote and that makes many people give up beforehand. Most people who left don't feel involved any more, so the votes from the expats are always in the margin.
While it is true I cannot vote for Finnish parliament and president, I get my rights back at a higher level. That of the EU-parliament. Here I have more rights than a normal Finn, because I can choose which country to vote for. The Netherlands or Finland? What shall I do this time? Every five years I get a letter from the city The Hague (Haag) and the maistraatti asking me about my preferences.
While I feel flattered that my vote is so precious that two countries are asking me about it, I feel that one step is still missing. Why can't I vote for a Greek, German or French politician? It is a democratic deficit that such thing is not possible. I understand that nationalist and regional considerations can play a role, but as long as I can't vote for someone with a different nationality we are not one Europe.