The televised presidential debate on Thursday is probably one of the first times when Perussuomalaiset (PS) party chairman Timo Soini’s good-cop-bad-cop strategy was uncovered to the tee. His usual response, “I don’t support racism and hate speech,” didn’t work because it was unconvincing and even had a grotesque quality.
We should thank again the high school students of the city of Järvenpää for their good question that brought Soini’s political house of cards down.
The question inspired as well other presidential candidates taking part in the debate, namely Paavo Lipponen of the Social Democrats, Swedish People’s Party Eva Biaudet and Paavo Arhimäki of the Left Alliance, to continue to grill Soini and not let him off the hook as easily as in the past.
With young people like the ones we saw on television this week and their good questions, we can rest assured that Finland is in good hands and will not fall victim to nationalistic populism and hatred.
The startling discovery that one will make when studying Soini’s ideology and the PS is that at the end of the day he thinks just like those worst racists in his party. The big difference between Soini and those “bad cops” is that he is a good talker. Soini does not insult any group directly like some of his more cruder MPs.
But don’t be mistaken, it’s the same beast with the difference being that the message comes in sugar-coated words.
There is a very good column by Pekka Vasala of Kainuun Sanomat that catches Soini in his good-cop-bad-cop role.
How can a politician like Soini be against racism and prejudice when he prizes politically people like Jussi Halla-aho with the chair of the administration committee? How can he lead by example if he attracts Nazi-spirited members that belong to associations like Suomen Sisu and SKV? The PS chairman literally shakes your hand with a smile but then clobbers you with the other.
Once we understand how a political beast like Soini and the PS operate, we can begin to tackle an ever-growing social ill in this country: far-right nationalism, inequality, prejudice and racism.
It’s not complicated. It’s as simple as that.