In brief

Aland Centre wins legislative election

Party seeks to “strengthen” islands’ autonomy within Finland

Aland Centre leaders celebrate electoral success. Veronica Thörnroos is likely to become the new prime minister.
Aland Centre leaders celebrate electoral success. Veronica Thörnroos is likely to become the new prime minister. Author: Aland Centre
The Aland Centre party won the legislative election that was held, 20 October, in Finland’s self-governing archipelago, with 9 seats out of a total of 30. All three parties that had made up the government alliance in the 2015-2019 term (Liberals, Social Democrats and the Moderate Coalition) lost ground. The campaign has been focused on the management of social services, with the issue of autonomy not being as relevant.

Aland Centre is thus poised to return to government, although it will need the support from other groups. Between 2011 and 2015 —the last time it was in government—, Aland Centre took part in an alliance with the Social Democrats, the Moderate Coalition and the Non Aligned Coalition.

Future of Aland, the only pro-independence party, has lost one of its two seats. This is its worst result since it was founded in 2001.

A new green party, Sustainable Initiative, has made it into the Alandic Parliament for the first time.

The full results are as follows: Aland Center, 9 seats (+2); Liberals, 6 (-1); Moderate Coalition, 4 (-1); Non-Aligned Coalition, 4 (+1); Social Democrats, 3 (-2); Sustainable Initiative, 2 (+2); Future of Aland, 1 (-1); Aland Democracy, 1 (=).

Strengthening” autonomy

Aland Centre’s election manifesto states that the party will seek to “strengthen” Alandic self-government along the lines of Denmark’s autonomous territories (the Faroe Islands and Greenland). The document also proposes that Aland have direct representation to the EU and that it be able to sign its own international treaties.

But “expanding the autonomy was not a dominant issue in the debates before the election,” says Susann Simolin, a researcher at the Aland Islands Peace Institute. “Instead, there has been a lot of debate on infrastructure and municipal reform,” Simolin adds, “and when newspaper Ålandstidningen mapped which were the most important question to the voters, issues such as healthcare, education and elderly care scored the highest —just as is common in the Nordic countries.”

Finland’s new centre-left government, in office since June 2019, has pledged to build on previous work to introduce in the Finnish Parliament, during the current legislative term, a new self-government law for the archipelago.

Aland has a population of 30,000, most of them Swedish speakers. The territory was granted self-governing status by Finland in 1920. Following a final decision by the League of Nations in 1921, autonomy was finally implemented in 1922.