Should we be worried by the latest polls, which show the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party vying for second place? What does the rise of the PS say about the present state of Finland? What will happen if the party matches its 2011 election result in 2015?
Right after the disappointing municipal election, PS head Timo Soini promised that his party aims to become the biggest in 2014, when Finland holds European parliamentary elections.
If you are an optimist, the rise of the PS in 2011 could be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to Finland’s ever-growing cultural diversity, globalization and especially to the economic crisis that has hit the European Union and our country.
In my hometown of Mikkeli, we had our first refugee center in the early 1990s. The initial reaction was hostile, sometimes even violently towards the newcomers. That fortunately changed with time and today it’s nothing uncommon to see immigrants in Mikkeli.
While matters have changed for the better, others like institutionalized racism, prejudice and intolerance haven’t. They linger on because nobody has challenged these problems seriously enough.
Kansainvälinen Mikkeli, an association promoting cultural diversity and internationalization, approached by email some candidates before the April 2011 parliamentary election who wanted to tighten immigration policy and cut funding to such groups. Kansainvälinen Mikkeli published these responses on their Facebook page and thereby opened debate with these candidates.
The email was important because it showed these candidates that their views concerning immigrants were being heard.
While it’s clear that time will change matters for the better in this country for immigrants and visible minorities, what if the PS match their last parliamentary election result in 2015? What would happen if they become the biggest party two and a half years from now and its leader, Soini, becomes prime minister?
While the latter scenarios are unlikely, such an election victory by the PS in 2015 would end up polarizing our society ever more. Soini’s and the PS’ answer, with the silent blessing of the bigger and some smaller parties, would play down intolerance by denying it as a minor problem.
It’s pretty clear that immigrants and visible minorities will never be treated as equals in Finland as long as they leave this important work to others. We must rise to the occasion and we must take charge of our own future.
One of the reasons why the PS has grown to such a big party and why our answer to their discourse has been so ambiguous, is because too many white Finns don’t feel threatened by them.
Leadership is needed more than ever today to drive home a fact that Finland is a culturally divers society.
No matter how much the racists and extremists kick and bitch about this fact, that’s what’s written in stone.