In Finland, the Christian Democrats are key to the negotiations for a new government. Päivi Räsänen (“thankful and happy” about her re-election) tells Evangelical Focus about the current socio-political moment.
Finland is in multi-lateral talks to form a new government. After Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s defeat, the five-party leftist government is expected to give way to what could become a four-party coalition from the other side of the political spectrum.
Among these are the Christian Democrats (KD), a small but resilient group in the opposition that is now key to help make Petteri Orpo (National Coalition, winner with 21% of the vote) the new Prime Minister.
Finland’s swing to conservative positions was also visible in the performance of the KD, which not only retained its seats in parliament but won 10,000 votes for its best result in a decade (4,3%).
Among the 5 Christian Democratic parliamentarians returning to their seats is Päivi Räsänen, a medical doctor and committed Christian who has won nothing less than eight terms (28 years in the parliament), representing the Häme constituency, in the south of the country.
A former Interior Minister (2011-2016), Räsänen was not sure she could retain her seat. “All the time I knew there was a chance of being re-elected”, she has now told Evangelical Focus, “but I knew it would require much hard work”. Her campaign was “very hard”, but ended with a 350-vote increase compared to 2019.
Despite being a politician in a small party, many outside Finland have become familiar with Päivi Räsänen after becoming the centre of a controversial hate speech court case for expressing her Christian views about homosexuality on social media and other media platforms. The interest from across Europe (see Evangelical Focus’ full coverage here) was high for a legal process in which freedom of speech, religious freedom and the rights of minorities seemed to clash.
Räsänen clearly won the case in the Helsinki District Courts in March 2022 (all charges were unanimously dismissed by the judges) but an appeal of the state prosecutor will lead to new hearings on 22-24 August this year.
“I am very grateful and happy for my re-election. I am especially happy that the unfounded and very public charges against me did not prevent me from coming re-elected and that my work on behalf of Christian values can continue”, Räsänen says. “The trials are not over yet”, she admits, but her willingness is to defend the right of expressing Christian beliefs in the public arena even if the process ends in the European courts.
The five members of parliament of the Christian Democrats will make the difference, and the party knows it. Government talks are starting these days and “we are open to different kinds of coalitions”, Räsänen tells Evangelical Focus.
The KD has communicated to the election winners what their priorities are in areas such as taxation, employment, social, health, and education policies, as well as balancing of public finances and Finland’s role in NATO. “In our answers, we emphasised the importance of balancing the public finances, securing the wellbeing of families, children, and elderly people, saving social services and health care services that are in many ways in crisis, and strengthening Finland’s security of supply”.
Räsänen underlines that “the Christian Democrats are ready to participate in various ruling coalitions as long as the government programme is compatible with the party’s values and objectives”.
In a complex social scenario with polarised debates around migration, green policies, gender, and the threat of Russia, the KD opted for the campaign slogan “Järjen ääni (“The voice of reason”).
Räsänen thinks in recent years “Finland has been led with a thought that difficult decisions can be postponed and loan can be taken endlessly”. She points to “services that have not improved” and the “rise of costs of ordinary living”, while “ideological projects have been pushed forward instead of taking care of real-life issues”.
What should Christians in politics do? “Politics need a voice of sense and I believe Christians to be such voices”, she says. Especially, she adds, as “many questions related to values are expected to come to the parliament this term, including the issues of euthanasia and abortion. We need Christians to defend life and foundational freedoms and rights”.