Why the Somalis are leading the minority African community in Finnish politics

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Article written by Obi-West Utchaychukwu, Editor-in-Chief of Diaspora Glitz Magazine and the founder of the Face of African Queen Finland

The rescheduled Finnish municipal election will take place on Sunday, June 13. The advance voting which began on May 26 ended on June 8 with 1,470,901 votes recorded by the election body. The figure account for 33.0% of all those eligible to vote. During the last election, the eligible voters were 26.6%. There are 35,627 candidates running for office this time, a 5.6 per cent increase in 2017.


In the election, local councillors and deputy councillors will be elected for the next four-year term. The term of office of the local councils will begin on 1 August 2021 and last until 31 May 2025. According to the Finnish population information system, the total number of eligible voters is 4,464,814 which account for 80% of the total population.

This year, there is an increase in the number of candidates from immigrant backgrounds running for the municipal election with those from Africa having a part to play in changing the narrative that has beclouded the immigrant community. The total number of candidates for the local elections amount to 35,627, of which only 953 are people of foreign origin. The total number of people of foreign origin with the right to vote is 323,722.

The Somalis are leading the minority African community in Finnish politics. They are at the forefront of advancing the frontiers of integration, inclusion and diversity. Unarguably, they are the face of immigrants from African background in Finnish politics. According to the statistics, the Somali community is about 60 per cent under age and many are still in school. They are the political pathfinders for the minority African community. Their biggest strength is their population despite some fragments of disunity amongst them. The Somalis have more than 150 registered associations that aim at building a strong community and fostering unity amongst themselves.

According to the Finnish population statistics of 2020, the number of Somalis living in Finland is 22,534 which account for about 5% of the 444,031 figure of the total number of foreigners in Finland. In 2017, about 53% of Somalis voted in the election. They are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Finland and the largest group of people of non-European origin.

According to a study, the first Somali immigrants came to Finland in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1990, 44 Somali students studying in the Soviet Union immigrated to Finland. Furthermore, between 1990 and 1995, the number of Somali citizens in Finland increased from 44 to 4,044. Zahra Abdulla, born in 1966 was among those who moved into Finland from the old Soviet Union. She’s one of the most successful and impactful politicians from Somalia. She was a member of the Helsinki City Council from 1997 to 2017, representing the Green League. She ran for the Parliamentary election in 2007 and came close to becoming the first Somali immigrant to be elected to the Parliament of Finland with 4174 votes.

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Zahra Abdulla, a political trailblazer
Currently, in the whole of Finland, there are between 10-12 City Councillors who are from Somalia. Many of them their initiatives have helped in effecting changes in their municipalities. There are between 20-25 candidates from Somalia who are running for the 2021 municipal elections. Some of them are first-timers, young and vibrant. One of them is Amin Hassan, 24, a member of The Greens in Helsinki. Having mentioned Zahra Abdulla who charted the course and found the path for Somalis participation in politics, there are other names with outstanding CVs who are doing well in politics and giving their contenders a run for their money in their municipalities.

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Abdirahim Husu Hussein,
Executive Director of Moniheli ry, 2019 Parliamentary candidate
Abdirahim Husu Hussein is the Executive Director of Moniheli ry, an umbrella body of over 100 multicultural associations in Finland. He is a masters student at the University of Arcada, He is very popular among the African community. He has been living in Finland for over 25 years and has been Helsinki City Councillor since 2011. The Social Democratic Party man ran for the 2019 Parliamentary election but was not elected because his 1989 votes weren’t enough. He also ran for the European Parliament. Husu, as he is fondly called is not running for the municipal election this year.
 

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Ramieza Mahdi, SPP councillor in Vaasa City
Ramieza Mahdi is a Swedish Peoples Party Councillor in the City of Vaasa. The Swedish speaking single mother came to Finland in 1994 and has lived in Ostrobothnia for the majority of her life. The entrepreneur lady also works as an integration consultant as well as a community and health communicator. Ramieza ran for the Parliamentary election in 2019 but didn’t get the required number of votes. She’s a candidate for the municipal election with number 94 which coincides with the year she came to Finland.

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Alas Ali, Two-term Turku City councillor for the Centre Party
Turku based Alas Ali is among the top politicians from Somalia who are making waves in Finland. He came to Finland in the early 90s. He is an entrepreneur and a project coordinator for the City of Turku. He is a masters student in social services at the University of Turku. He joined politics in 2007 and ran for the municipal election in 2012 under the Centre Party and he was elected to the City Council. He ran for the second term in 2017 and won. He ran for the 2019 Parliamentary election but didn’t win. This year, Alas is not among the candidates for the municipal election.

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Ali Jama, PhD student at Aalto University, SDP candidate for 2021 election
Mohammed Ali Jama is a member of the Social Democratic Party in Espoo. He is a PhD student at Aalto University. He is ready to serve the community as he has done before.

The Somalis are more in politics when compared with other African groups. This is not because they have the population advantage but because they want to change the narrative and the perception that the native Finns have about them. They have been scapegoated for most crimes committed by immigrants in Finland. The hostility towards Arab Muslims is also affecting them because they are predominantly Muslim. Many of them have been racially attacked and assaulted, even the politicians are victims of hate-motivated acts. The Somalis in Finland are among the well-integrated groups because many of them understands the local language.

During the build-up to the 2019 Parliamentary election, it was reported in the media that the Left Alliance candidate, Suldaan Said Ahmed was assaulted at the Itäkeskus metro station. According to Said Ahmed, he was waiting for a train when a Finnish man in his forties approached him, tore leaflets from his hand, hit him in the chest and called him an infidel and a paedophile.

Yle publication in March 2019 stated that SDP city councillor in Espoo, Habiba Ali was allegedly assaulted at a shop in Espoo. She said she was wrongly suspected of shoplifting a can of tuna fish. Ali asked the security guard, who treated her with respect, why she would shoplift a can of tuna if she just purchased a lot of food from the market. According to Habiba, the two employees of Lidl mocked her in a demeaning way. Lidl tendered a public apology for the embarrassment. Habiba has been involved in political activities for over 18 years, having been Espoo City youth speaker when she was 14 years. She was elected Espoo City councillor in 2017 and she’s standing to be re-elected on Sunday June 13.

Recently, Helsinki District Court convicted a man of racially abusing City Councillor Abdirahim “Husu” Hussein (SDP) in 2019, in a case that attracted widespread social attention at the time.

I commend the Somalis for their resilience and doggedness in their quest in making the voices of immigrants heard despite the barrage of challenges confronting them. They need to come together to build a formidable force that will turn things around. If they had picked a consensus candidate during the last Parliamentary election you would agree with me that we would have seen a Somali in the Parliament but all of them wants to make history and nobody is willing to step down for another. In addition, the Somali vote is not enough to get a candidate through. Therefore, more people are needed especially in the African community.

https://diasporaglitzmagazine.com/w...nority-african-community-in-finnish-politics/
 
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