The election victory by the Perussuomalaiset could be attributed to a number of factors and bears all the signs of the same illness spreading throughout Europe these days: right-wing populism that is anti-EU, anti-immigration and above all anti-Islam. The PS could have never dreamed of such success in the last election without the help of Kokoomus, Social Democratic Party and Center Party.
The PS should offer gratitude to their usual victims: immigrants, refugees and minorities.
But all of this would not have been possible for the PS without the help of the ogre of xenophobia that has lurked relatively hidden in Finnish society. Politicians in this country have known about this social ill for decades but have rarely challenged it.
If you speak to some who have been long-serving MPs, they know about that monster but have preferred to distance themselves from it because they know it could destroy their political careers.
All those parties that were openly pro-EU or faintly outspoken on racism suffered. The Greens are a good example never mind the Center Party, the biggest loser in the election. Could former Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi’s Center Party have suffered such a heavy defeat if it weren’t for her pro-EU and outspoken stance against racism?
Another factor that spurred the PS to new heights was a watershed statement in March 2010 by Kokoomus chairman Jyrki Katainen, who stated that being critical and debating immigrant issues in this country didn’t make you a racist. After that green light to racism was given, the Social Democratic leadership gave the PS another pat on the back with their infamous saying, maassa maan tavalla.
Like all major parties in Finland, each have their fair share of anti-immigration critics. No party, however, like the PS, has so many.
A good lesson to be learned from the election is that if you vacillate and offer flimsy leadership on an issue like racism you will become its prize.
Another matter that the election showed is that xenophobia is a social ill inflicting Finland.
Now is a better time than ever for concerned politicians and the general public to send that ogre back to where it came from: the gutter.