In order to understand what a party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) are, look at how it rose to become Finland’s third-largest party in parliament in less than ten years.
The growth of the anti-EU, anti-immigration and especially anti-Islam PS has been impressive to say the least, rising from 5 MPs in the 2007 parliamentary elections to 39 MPs in 2011.
While many played down the party’s historic victory of 2011, the Euro MP elections in May and next year’s parliamentary elections in April will determine whether the PS will remain as one of the country’s biggest parties or return back to the minor political leagues where it came from.
The presidential and municipal elections of 2012 were a clear disappointment for the PS, mustering only 9.4% and 12.3% of the votes, respectively, which were a far cry from its historic victory of 2011, when it gained 19.05%.
One of the reasons that could shed light on the stellar growth of the PS is not only the euro crisis and the financial bailouts of countries like Greece and Portugal, but the growth of intolerance, nationalism and xenophobia throughout Europe. PS chairman Timo Soini, believes, however, that the main factor for the party’s historic victory two years ago was anti-EU sentiment.
Another matter that has made the PS popular with the voters is that it is all things to everyone, if that everyone is a voter who is a middle-aged white Finnish male. In many respects the rhetoric of the party is similar to the Tea Party of the United States, which tries to lure voters by using immigrants as scapegoats and promoting free-market capitalism.
The PS usually speaks in code to its voters and that is why it can have members who house racist views and claim that it doesn’t tolerate racism. Some, like PS MP Jussi Halla-aho, have been sentenced for ethnic agitation and can still enjoy the support of the party’s leadership.
One of the matters that should worry sensible Finns is not what the PS is, but what it can become.
A good sister party of the PS is the UK Independence Party (Ukip). Both parties are very similar ideologically but with some differences. The Ukip, for example, wants the United Kingdom to leave the EU while the jury is still out on the PS’ stance on the matter.
Both the PS and Ukip are anti-immigration and anti-Islam parties that cannot be still labelled as “far right” like the Danish People’s Party or Lega Nord of Italy.
Certainly in the ideological bubble of populist right-wing rhetoric, everything is possible, even changing and rewriting history to suit one’s intolerant views.
If you want to read a comprehensive review of the Ukip’s far-right ties in Europe, read what Rowena Mason wrote on the Purple Rain blog of the HOPE not hate website.
Read full column here.
The Ukip,like the PS, belongs to the Europe for Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group of the European parliament.
While the PS belongs the EFD group and has one Euro MP, Sampo Terho,
Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming!, said recently that it was worrying that a party like the Ukip has links to people and parties that are Islamophobic and in the far right.
Why should we believe Soini and the PS when they claim that “they aren’t racist” or have far-right ties?
Jay Smooth’s recent video, How to tell someone they sound racist, offers us an answer. The PS, politicians from different parties, and the Finnish media, hide or wrongly focus their attention on the “they-are-racist” as opposed to the “that-sounded-racist” conversation.
There may be a number of reasons why their focus is away from the ball. Uncovering why would reveal a lot how intolerance has gained an ever-bigger foothold in countries like Finland.
“What they did conversation focuses on the person’s words and actions and why what they did and what they said was unacceptable,” said Smooth, adding that the problem with the they-are-racist conversation is that it will take your focus away from the issue.
The person that made the racist comment wins, you lose.