Pretty fly for white guys: Politicians in Finland rap for votes
Two politicians in Finland have come up with an innovative way to get their message out to potential voters ahead of the 2 April general election.
Johan Kvarnström and Coel Thomas have both released rap videos, where they set out their policy platforms and try to engage with potential new voters.
Kvarnström is a freshman Member of Parliament from the Social Democrat Party, and represents a constituency on the southwest coast of Finland, with a large Swedish-speaking population.
Performing as his rap alter ego Qruu, he spits rhymes on his track “The Struggle Goes On” about the Nordic nation’s carbon neutral goals; extending compulsory education to age 18; the cradle to grave welfare state; equality; support for Ukraine, and “stopping Putin’s missiles”.
The video shows the politician-turned-rapper on the steps of parliament, and on a train as he commutes from his home town to the capital, Helsinki.
Just before local singer Cstar croons “you are the change you want to see” in the chorus, Qruu invokes the star power of his party’s leader in a mic drop moment:
“My party is said to be old fashioned, but we have Sanna Marin, what do you have?”
“My campaign manager” – singer Cstar – “has a background in music and we knew each other for a long time but never collaborated before,” Kvarnström tells Euronews.
“He used to be a rapper back in the day but now he’s more into soul and reggae, and I used to rap for fun as well. He was pushing me that we should do something together, it’s a strength we have and a card we should play.”
The track has already generated positive responses, including from a group of senior citizens at a retirement home he visited who knew some of the lyrics. And when Sanna Marin shared the clip on her own social media channels, Kvarnström saw a surge in viewers.
“It’s a fresh way to come out, something different. I don’t see too many likes on Facebook but my daughter came from her dance lesson and said that people were saying ‘your dad’s video is good, say hello to him’.”
“I also have it on Instagram. I know I should also put it on TikTok but I’m not really sure, because of the Chinese government control.”
The rap also takes a look at the toll being a politician can take on candidates – including time spent away from their families, or being on the receiving end of social media trolls, conspiracy theories and hate mail.
“Traditionally rap music is the underdog perspective, and my campaign still has an element of the underdog in it. But I’m still me.
“We all have our struggles, and when we recorded it was important that my pain was present,” says Kvarnström, who describes himself in his rap as “the hip-hop patriot.”
Green candidate lights up Helsinki’s election rap race
In Helsinki, Green League candidate Coel Thomas doesn’t actually rap on his track: he leaves that to long-time friend and collaborator Calum Barrett.
Their “Nova Finlandia” finds inspiration in the bassline and words of Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia anthem, set to a UK drill beat, and with the video shot on top of Helsinki’s tallest residential building.
“We covered 10 subjects in about 90 seconds, and there were some things we ended up talking about less than we wanted to,” Thomas tells Euronews.
“It wasn’t so difficult fitting political policies into a rhyming scheme,” adds Barrett, “it was more about fitting the rhyming scheme into our time limit, we could only spare about two lines per topic.”
The duo cover environmental issues; building a tunnel from Helsinki under the Baltic Sea to the Estonian capital Tallinn; nuclear energy; wind, solar and geothermal power; investing in education, and getting young people to be more active.
“He’s a very good friend to nature, basically huggin’ the trees. In parliament thuggin’, hero for honey defending the bees,” raps Barrett, while 28-year-old Thomas dances beside him.
“There’s lots of hidden messages in there and we’re hoping when people listen to it, they get something out of it if they listen more than once.”
Thomas’ lyrics also hit on one of the core issues of his campaign: legalising and taxing cannabis in Finland. He also wants to see an end to prohibition of a loose tobacco product which is currently banned for sale in the EU, except in Sweden – meaning the estimated 7% of Finns who use it, have to obtain it from across the border in Sweden, and there’s a thriving black market for the product.
“Regulate weed, legalise nuuska” raps Barrett.
The feedback so far has been positive, with “only a few haters,” and the success of the track means they’ve put it on TikTok where you can sing along with Coel and Barrett to “democratise the beat.”
Finland’s election system encourages voters to cast a ballot for individual politicians, meaning those with more money can make a bigger impact with expansive advertising campaigns, personal appearances, stalls in shopping malls or market squares, and afford to give away items to potential voters: buckets, pens, badges and food like hot dogs, candy or soup are popular freebies during Finnish election cycles.
“It’s difficult to stand out in a crowd,” says Coel.
“I found my own ways because I talk about a lot of issues other politicians dont talk about, drug policy being the main one. This is a funny thing people have taken notice of, and even other parties have shared it saying it’s really cool,” he tells Euronews, a week ahead of election day.
“But it’s tough. I don’t have much money to spend on my own campaign, so i have to think of creative ways to break through.”