Immigrants living in Finland will be able to vote for 50 representatives to the world’s first ‘immigrant Parliament’ at next year’s elections. The body planning the polls have no official status in Finland but are hoping to give immigrants a voice and influence public opinion surrounding the issue.
Alexis Kouros, who first came up with the idea, told Helsingin Sanomat: “So far, the debate has been a monologue of the dominant population. The Parliament will turn it into a dialogue. It is harder to bypass its opinion than that of an individual immigrant.”
Foreign-born Finnish citizens, the adult children of immigrants, and foreigners who have been in the country for two years or more will be eligible to vote in the elections.
The largest migrant group in Finland is Russians, followed by Estonians. Germans, Thais and Iraqis are also quite prominent, but organisers hope that matters other than ethnicity will inform most people’s votes.
One of the group’s founders, Professor Jeremony Gould said: “We don’t want the Immigrant Parliament to be a place where people only talk about female circumcision. The same things are important to us that are important to others, but we have new points of view.”
Kourus added, “Immigrants are frustrated. The Parliament eases this frustration by offering a way to affect their own position.”