By Enrique Tessieri
With about a month to go for the April 17 election, the biggest question still refues to reveal itself: by how many times will the True Finns multiply their MPs from eight now? Some reliable estimates place the number between 15 and 35.
For me as a Finn with a multicultural background, there is a lot riding in these elections if we consider that Finland’s demographic challenges will begin to accentuate especially in the next two decades. We are heading to become a society where the number of over-sixty-five-year-olds in the population will jump to 27% by 2040 from 17% in 2007, according to Statistics Finland.
If you want to see today what Finland will look like demographically in the next three decades, one has only to visit some rural towns where over 30% of the population is over 65 years.
There is nothing wrong with pensioners. The problem, however, is who is going to pay for all the expensive health care and social welfare costs to service this ever-growing age group?
Should we be worried that the True Finns are heading for a victory in the April election?
Yes because instead of Finland looking for effective answers to its demographic as well as a number of other challenges facing our country and society, a large number of Finns have chosen instead to be spooked by the rhetoric and populism of the True Finns.
We have only ourselves to blame for the rise of the True Finns in the polls. We have never really addressed racism and discrimination forcefully enough in this country since we have had so few immigrants among our ranks in the past. Instead of questioning our hatred for the Russians, some of us still feel the same way about our eastern neighbor as on the same day they unjustly attacked us in the 1939-40 Winter War.
Instead of trying to rid our society of ills like racism, some politicians have used it for their own opportunistic political aims by instilling fear and claiming that our country will be overrun by Russians and foreigners.
On the positive side of things, it is good matter that many Finns who should know better than to peddle nineteenth-century racial “theories” are now in the public light. I personally believe that they have given us a good opportunity to challenge for good their distorted ideas that date back to the 1930s and to the writings of Rolf Nordenstreng and Eugen Fischer.
I refuse to believe that Finland, the country that is our dear home and which sacrificed so much to build a world-class educational system and society, will throw it all away for a few cheap populist soundbites from groups like the True Finns and politicians like Social Democrat Kari Rajamäki and Wille Rydman of Kokoomus.
The “True Finland” that the True Finns want to build is nothing more than a “False Finland” glued by populism and low self-esteem. We must all stand up against them, especially on April 17.