People power brings Finns the right to say ‘I do’.

Finland took an important step towards realising marriage equality today when MPs voted on a citizens’ initiative to legalise same-sex marriages. Out of a total of 199 MPs, 105 voted to legalise same-sex marriages (they actually voted noted no, ‘Ei’, because of how the question had been posed). There are still various bureaucratic rigmaroles to go through – including another vote in parliament – before same-sex couples can actually marry (possibly in early 2017), but the general sentiment seems to be that there won’t be any backtracking after today’s historic development.


The result of the vote is not the only news worth noting either. The vote to legalise same-sex marriages followed a citizens’ initiative – Tahdon 2013 – started over bar table in 2012, and is the first citizens’ initiative pass through parliament since citizens’ initiatives were allowed that same year. The lesson? People power works.

And here’s a list of the MPs who voted against same-sex marriages, because I believe in naming and shaming (this is according to Helsingin Sanomat, and includes the party initials in Finnish before the vote against, ‘EI’):

Ahvenjärvi Sauli kd EI
Anttila Sirkka-Liisa kesk EI
Autto Heikki kok EI
Eerola Juho ps EI
Elomaa Ritva ps EI
Gästgivars Lars Erik r EI
Hakkarainen Teuvo ps EI
Hautala Lasse kesk EI
Heikkilä Lauri ps EI
Hemmilä Pertti kok EI
Hirvisaari James m11 EI
Holmlund Anne kok EI
Hongisto Reijo ps EI
Immonen Olli ps EI
Jalonen Ari ps EI
Jokinen Kalle kok EI
Joutsenlahti Anssi ps EI
Jurva Johanna ps EI
Jääskeläinen Jouko kd EI
Jääskeläinen Pietari ps EI
Kalli Timo kesk EI
Kalmari Anne kesk EI
Katainen Elsi kesk EI
Kerola Inkeri kesk EI
Kettunen Pentti ps EI
Kivelä Kimmo ps EI
Kiviranta Esko kesk EI
Kokko Osmo ps EI
Komi Katri kesk EI
Kopra Jukka kok EI
Korhonen Timo V. kesk EI
Koskela Laila kesk EI
Kääriäinen Seppo kesk EI
Lehti Eero kok EI
Leppä Jari kesk EI
Lindström Jari ps EI
Lintilä Mika kesk EI
Lohela Maria ps EI
Lohi Markus kesk EI
Louhelainen Anne ps EI
Maijala Eeva-Maria kesk EI
Mattila Pirkko ps EI
Mäkipää Lea ps EI
Mäntylä Hanna ps EI
Mäntymaa Markku kok EI
Mölsä Martti ps EI
Niikko Mika ps EI
Niinistö Jussi ps EI
Oinonen Pentti ps EI
Packalén Tom ps EI
Palm Sari kd EI
Palola Mikael kok EI
Paloniemi Aila kesk EI
Pekkarinen Mauri kesk EI
Peltokorpi Terhi kesk EI
Pirttilahti Arto kesk EI
Raatikainen Mika ps EI
Rajamäki Kari sd EI
Rantakangas Antti kesk EI
Rauhala Leena kd EI
Ravi Pekka kok EI
Rehula Juha kesk EI
Reijonen Eero kesk EI
Risikko Paula kok EI
Rossi Markku kesk EI
Rundgren Simo kesk EI
Ruohonen-Lerner Pirkko ps EI
Räsänen Päivi kd EI
Saarakkala Vesa-Matti ps EI
Sankelo Janne kok EI
Sasi Kimmo kok EI
Satonen Arto kok EI
Savola Mikko kesk EI
Sipilä Juha kesk EI
Soini Timo ps EI
Soukola Ismo ps EI
Tolppanen Maria ps EI
Tolvanen Kari kok EI
Torniainen Ari kesk EI
Tossavainen Reijo ps EI
Turunen Kaj ps EI
Tuupainen Kauko ps EI
Tölli Tapani kesk EI
Vahasalo Raija kok EI
Vehkaperä Mirja kesk EI
Vehviläinen Anu kesk EI
Virtanen Pertti ps EI
Vähämäki Ville ps EI
Väätäinen Juha ps EI
Wallin Harry sd EI
Zyskowicz Ben kok EI
Östman Peter kd EI


We need to boycott Israel.

Enough. We need a full-scale, global boycott of Israel and all things Israeli, much like the boycott of apartheid South Africa. The below video explains why. This website – Voices of Gaza – features important testimony of what is happening in Gaza right now. ACT.

Before or after the protest?

Cambodians protest against the regime in 2012. Credit: Greg Pellechi

Cambodians protest against the regime in 2012. Credit: Greg Pellechi

Over the past few years we have seen an explosion in street protests and demonstrations. Photos and testimonies are all over my Twitter and Facebooks feeds, and regularly also feature in mainstream media. However, as Moisés Naím notes in The Atlantic, all this mass mobilisation of people has to date resulted in few tangible results.

In his article Naím talks about why street protests don’t work. A central point he makes is that “[t]he problem is what happens after the march.” I think his emphasis is wrong. Yes, there is the issue of what happens after the march, but the reason that’s an issue is because of what happened – or did not happen – before the march.

I find it interesting that Naím makes no mention of non-violent action, of which street protests are a form (provided of course they are non-violent). In standard theory about non-violent action (of which the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict and the Albert Einstein Institution are great proponents), it is stressed that strategic planning is key. Mobilising supporters, developing allies, analysing existing power structures, and developing a plan of action – a strategy – are all key steps in this effort.

In contrast, street protests are a tactic. As such, the only way they have a chance of bringing lasting change is if they form part of a sustained, strategically planned, campaign to reach whatever goal the movement has.

So to determine the real impact a street protest may have, we need to look more closely not only at what happens after the protest, but – more importantly – at what happened before. Having thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people on the street demanding ‘change’ will have little impact unless strategic mobilising, organising, and planning has gone into the protest. Naím seems to recognise the need for this, but unlike many theorists of non-violence, link it to the need to develop political parties (which is anathema to most theorists and practitioners of non-violence).

My advice is this: the discontented need to move from reading simply Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of nonviolent action, and graduate to reading, for instance, Robert L. Helvey’s On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About the Fundamentals.

Tactics are easy, but it’s the strategy that counts.