First time voting in Finland

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Today the parliamentary elections have taken place in Finland and I voted for the first time in this country. I’d like to share my thoughts on the process and relate it to other voting experiences in Nicaragua, my country of origin.ballot-box

 

To my surprise, when I was going to my corresponding polling place I became increasingly nervous. Although I had followed the election process and was certain of the candidate and party for whom I wanted to vote, as I entered into the building I began to feel out of place.

I felt out of place for not being a Finn, for not looking at all like a Finn and for just having an intermediate level in the Finnish language. But I managed to get rid of my insecurity and proceeded to do what I had to. Afterwards, I felt unusually content. It was the first time in my life that I came out of a voting poll with a smile on my face.

As I walked back home I started to remember the last time I voted in Nicaragua. It was for the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2006. My father and I went together to vote for a new president and for 90 members of parliament.

My dad voted strategically, for the main opposition party to avoid that “that guy” would be the winner, whereas I voted for the people and party I liked. As we were walking back home, dad was trying to convince me why it would have been better to vote for the other guy, the lesser of evils. I was trying to explain him why I preferred the principles and values of the third less strong party.

Our discussion finished with a shared big laugh when we remembered that both of our ballots would probably be found the next day in the municipal dump. In fact, many were found there and in other rubbish bins. *And, by the way, the elected president happens to be the same one as of 2015. He had already been president for 10 years (from 1980 to 1990). And, after 19 years of holding the post, rumor has it that he’s planning to stay loooooonger.*

So, having experienced the voting process in a truly democratic country and comparing it with another one that’s far from respecting the opinion of the people, I feel a mixture of enthusiasm and sadness.

I am thrilled for today I was able to exercise my right to vote as a new citizen of the country of Finland. I am sad for in the country of my heart my vote means little (and I’m being optimistic).

Sometimes it is easy to take for granted the importance of the electoral process implemented as part of a political system where sovereignty dwells entirely in the people.

As citizens of any nation, voting is an exclusive right. It enables us to designate those we want to be at the front and determine how we want our countries to be governed.

As I finish this post, the preliminary results of the elections have been announced on TV. I am happy that my party is doing well and upset that a party I dislike is going stronger than ever. Nonetheless I remain content for I can be certain that today my vote was taken into account, probably for the first time ever, and that, at the large level, it was the Finnish citizens who together and transparently chose the members of parliament who will lead the country for the next four years.

In Helsinki, 19 April 2015.

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