Sune Kymäläinen: How some politicians try to capitalize on anti-Russian sentiment in Finland

by , under Enrique Tessieri

MPs throughout Europe are opportunistically using the xenophobia card to boost their chances of getting reelected. This is the case of Suna Kymäläinen, a Social Democrat (SDP), who is eyeing the April 2015 parliamentary elections in Finland.

Näyttökuva 2014-5-2 kello 7.49.50
Read full story (in Finnish) here.

Kymäläinen is a sad example of how politicians who don’t belong to anti-immigration parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS), like to stir up anti-foreign sentiment in order to optimize their chances of getting reelected.

We saw this electoral strategy with dire consequences in 2010, when SDP chairman Jutta Urpilainen, flirting with the PS by infamously stating maassa maan tavalla, or in Rome do as the Romans do. In plain English her statement meant if you don’t behave like us you can go bak to where you came from.

Just like Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tories feel the anti-EU and anti-immigration UKIP breathing down their necks, they have only themselves to blame. Cameron’s anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric has not swayed support to the UKIP but strengthened it.

Finland showed in 2011 that you cannot flirt with an anti-immigration, far right or populist party because you’ll lose.

That is exactly what happened in our country to the run up to the 2011 parliamentary elections. The PS can thank the euro crisis, Portugal’s financial bailout a week before the elections, National Coalition Party chairman Jyrki Katainen, and Urpilainen for helping Timo Soini’s party gain 39 seats in parliament from just 5 in 2007.

In March 2010 Katainen opened the floodgates of anti-immigrant sentiment in Finland by stating that debating immigrant issues didn’t make you a racist.  Some saw Katainen’s statement as a green light to racists.

It’s sad that politicians like Kylmäläinen haven’t learned from past mistakes as is the case with the PS and UKIP.

If the draft bill that would prohibit non-EU citizens from purchasing land in Finland ever becomes law, some believe that it will have a negative impact on businesses especially in eastern Finland that depend on Russian tourists.

Probably the most incredible matter is not the bill and how it reveals our age-old xenophobia of Russians, but how politicians like Kymäläinen deny that is has nothing to do with racism or discrimination.

During a May Day rally on Thursday, Kymäläinen denied that she is a racist. “The smear campaign is pointless,” she continued. “It just shows how little people know about the foreign problem.”

Isn’t it surprising how some politicians absolve themselves of all guilt when they are accused of being xenophobic, racist or anti-Russian? Any sensible person would not waste his or her time figuring out if Kymäläinen is racist or not. The question is if her bill is.

Taking into account the weaknesses of Kymäläinen’s arguments for the draft bill in the face of ever-growing anti-Russian and intolerance throughout Finland and Europe, there are other issues that the bill brings to light.

Two of these are: Why are you targeting Russians and are you trying to score brownie points for your election campaign in 2015?

  1. PS voter

    Why call racism something that is basically a national security issue? No human right requires selling land to foreign nationals, especially when they are from a hostile country, which doesn’t grant reciprocally the same right to Finns. We should not let make Finland easy target for hostile actions and even war by wishful thinking and letting our guard down, as seems to be happening now in Ukraine at this very moment. This is especially true when we remember that for example Denmark, which is not even neighbour country of Russia and is a NATO member, has restrictions against foreign buyers of property.

    However, if you really do consider that as unacceptable racism, why aren’t you opposing the even more stricter home region rights (kotiseutuoikeus) in Åland.? Is OK to allow non-Finnish speakers to limit the rights of outsiders to the realestate in area, but completely unacceptable for Finnish speakers? If you do oppose the hime region rights laws in Åland, why don’t you join Olli Immonen of Perussuomalaiset, who has called for abolishing these home region rights laws as disciminatory against Finnish speakers? I would also like to mention that Swedish racists have called Åland a paradise for them, because of those home region rights. (e.g. , Åland framställs som framtidsland för rasister, Hufvudstadsbladet, published 1st of January 2013).

    • PS voter

      PS voter, it buying land is a “national security issue” then we should tell the Finns to get out of Southern Spain.

      Finns are EU citizens and this law would apply only persons who are not EU citizens. However, if Spain would like to do that, personally I think it is fine, as long as Finland has also right to make similar restrictions.

      Russia only prohibits ownership of land of Finns near the border. You are free to buy land in Russia if you wish.

      The Russian security zone on border is quite wide, even hundreds of kilometers on the border between Finland and Russia. Would you accept that proposed law if those limitations would apply only areas that are within 200 kilometers from border? At least, that wouldn’t be any more unfriendly than those Russian limitations toward Finns. As a much smaller and militarily weaker country, I would argue that Finland needs even wider security zones than Russia, on the border between Finland and Russia.

      Whether Russia is a threat or not depends a lot on us. Excluding Russians is an unfriendly act.

      I disagree. Ukrainians hold generally quite positive views of Russians and Russia, until Russia started quite recently to agitate violence in Ukraine and spread lies about threats against Russian speaking citizens of Ukraine and grabbed parts of Ukraine by armed forces. Ukrainians saw Russians as a sister nation as even their languages are so similar that they are able to understand each others language. Ukraine had even treaty with Russia where Russia promised to honor the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine when Ukraine was willing to give up of the large nuclear weapons arsenal it had.

      Nothing of those had any value when the leaders of Russia decided to have a military intervention against Ukraine. If anything, they just helped Russia to attack Ukraine. If Ukraine had the nuclear weapons, it would have been able to better resist Russia. If Ukraine had not given Russia permission to have soldiers in Crimea, Ukraine would had been able better to resist Russia. If Ukraine would had stricter border policies against Russians, it would have been better able to resist infiltration of the country by those unmarked “green men” with weapons, which seem to include shoulder launched weapons, capable of downing military helicopters.

      And western countries have been far too lenient in sanctions against Russia. Russians considered the especially the initial sanctions so weak that they were just a joke to them, which encouraged them to grab Crimea. If the sanctions would have been from the start much heavier than what we have even now, Ukraine might still have the Crimea. The problem has been being too friendly towards Russia, even when the acts of Russia would call for heavy sanctions, instead of being unfriendly towards Russia.

      BTW, Jussi Halla-aho speaks both Russian and Ukrainian and has even lived so long in Kiev, that he feels Kiev is his second or third home city, along Helsinki and Tampere. I think it is good that Perussuomalaiset have this kind of expertise, which is quite rare, especially among politicians.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      PS voter, we’re speaking of two different issues. One of these, about Sune Kymäläinen, concerns how politicians use xenophobia to further their political careers. The other issue is human rights violations, which we should always condemn.

    • PS voter

      You are sidestepping the issue. Buying land is a national security issue. Russia itself has prohibited selling land to Finns, because they see it as a national security issue. Why should much smaller Finland allow selling land to citizens of Russia, as it is even more important security issue to Finland, especially as we see at the very moment that Russia is clear military threat to western neighbour countries?

    • Enrique Tessieri

      PS voter, it buying land is a “national security issue” then we should tell the Finns to get out of Southern Spain. Russia only prohibits ownership of land of Finns near the border. You are free to buy land in Russia if you wish.

      Whether Russia is a threat or not depends a lot on us. Excluding Russians is an unfriendly act. Did you know that since the electoral regions of Kyme and Etelä-Savo have merged. If the same candidates ran again for office and got the same amount of votes as they did in 2011, Sune Kymäläinen would lose.

    • PS voter

      BTW, me message where I mentioned Jussi Halla-aho, was meant to be here, although by mistake I managed to post it on the wrong thread. I also made a mistake, when I tried to end the first blockquote, which is why the quoting looks so strange. I apologize that and blame this on the fact that I have fever at the moment.

    • Mark

      Fixed. Hope you are feeling better soon. Shame you are ill over the holiday weekend. Can’t be much fun.

  2. PS voter

    BTW, I noticed that you didn’t comment in any way the home region laws in Åland even though I asked directly your opinion about them. Why is it, that you never seem to answer perfectly valid, but difficult questions?

    • JusticeDemon

      PS voter

      Why don’t you tell us what you think is legally possible in relation to Åland autonomy?

      As you do so, please bear in mind the assurances that Finland gave to the international community in 1921 as conditions of retaining sovereignty over this territory, despite the overwhelming support of the local population for reunification with Sweden (thereby restoring government from Stockholm that had applied before the territory was ceded to Russia in 1809).

      The Åland Islands are a Crimea-style situation on Finland’s doorstep that has been peacefully resolved. As far as I can tell, the only even remotely significant upset in this relationship over the last 50 years concerned marketing of PAF lottery tickets in the rest of Finland, thereby encroaching on the Veikkaus monopoly. Hardly cause for armed conflict…

      Now like some Johnny come lately, you think you can undo a tried and tested arrangement that is nearly as old as independent Finland, because of reasons …

      Aikuistu jo ja opi edes vähän oman maan historiaa.

    • PS voter

      Why don’t you tell us what you think is legally possible in relation to Åland autonomy?

      If the parliament of Åland agrees to do so, the home region right laws may be made less strict or even removed. And even if it is not likely that Åland agrees to do that at this time, it is perfectly valid to oppose those laws as well as other laws, if you consider them to be discriminatory.

      It is worth to remember, that rest of Finland had also restrictions against foreigners buying land quite recently and Denmark still has them. Why shouldn’t Finland be free to continue those traditions (excluding EU citizens), if you feel that the restrictions in Åland are acceptable? Why should we have less right to have land buying restrictions against outsiders than Åland, if our parliament feels so?

      Aikuistu jo ja opi edes vähän oman maan historiaa.

      Lue kirja tai kaksi, ennen kuin edes yrität neuvoa fiksumpia henkilöitä näsäviisauksillasi.

    • JusticeDemon

      PS voter

      So what you really oppose is the autonomy of Åland. You just didn’t have the guts to admit it.

      It’s interesting that you claim to oppose discrimination, but then propose discriminating against people of a particular nationality. Is your analyst prescribing the right medication?

  3. elmeri

    “ever-growing anti-Russian and intolerance throughout Finland and Europe”

    growing intolerance towards russians in Finland? This could be, but it’s not enough. Where’s the facts to back your claim? Now quickly, put google in to use, with some luck you might even find something.

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