Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Ears open, eyes open. Open up to the world, and you will have plenty to think about.


Interesting (and worrying) developments are taking place in Europe. Hungary is facing a situation, where one party is gathering power and happily using it to appoint leaders, limit media, revise the consitution and change the laws according to the party’s nationalist and populist ideology. I need to read more about this before giving a more profound opinion, but there will most certainly be one appearing here soon.

The readers of this blog will know that there is a presidential election coming up in Finland. The first round will take place on Sunday. Although there is one candidate enjoying overwhelming (but possibly diminishing) popularity, it seems plausible to assume that the candidate in question will not get over 50% of the vote, which means that there will be two rounds. The speculation about the second candidate is interesting, but it’s not the object of discussion here today. Instead I’m wondering: what do we really know about politicians and politics? A Swedish commentator wrote an interesting piece about this in yesterday’s Hufvudstadsbladet. Actually, she mainly discussed the election debates from a foreigner’s point of view. Of course, depending on interest and personal experience, some voters are able to make a more enlightened decision than others. This enlightenment is probably an illusion: from debates and earlier actions we can deduce something, but the common voter, however interested, will never get all the facts. We live in a democracy where every vote has equal value, so basically the degree of enlightenment, illusion or not, behind the vote has no real importance. Whereas some people (like yours truly) is facing agony in order to make the right choice, some people just scribble down a random number on the slip, and others shrug the shoulders and say that they can’t be bothered to vote. Donald Duck also seems to be a popular candidate year after year. Yes, this is democracy at its very best.

In order to understand the political debate in a given country, one must be familiar with social structures and norms in the country in question. For instance, I can have a lot of opinions about the electoral campaigns in the US, but since my knowledge about the country is strictly theoretical (and most probably* biased); I don’t really have any idea about what’s really going on. Now, this leads us to Åland, the island where I live. It’s an autonomous region, whose population in general shares very few ties with the rest of the country. The local political system is different (even the majority of the parties are different), traditions are different, language is different. There are many people who have no contact whatsoever to the mainland. The question is: is the average “Ålander” familiar with the social and political context within which this election is taking place? How much does s/he know about national politics (and the candidates) in order to have enough information on which an enlightened decision can be made? At least one can assume that the main question for Ålanders is the role of the Swedish language whereas other matters haven’t been discussed so widely. Interestingly enough, surveys show that the Ålanders’ preferences differ from the ones among Finns, and to a lesser degree from the opinions held by the Finnish Swedes.


*One of the first things you learn when studying decision analysis and decision theory: many things are probable or possible, very few things are certain. Therefore the very active use of the word probably.

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