Dear friend, you probably read about the elections in Denmark and how xenophobia raised its head yet again in another Nordic country. The elections in Denmark didn’t surprise me. Two months earlier we had elections in Finland. Here too the right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset (PS)* became the second-biggest party in parliament and are now in government.
With the right-wing populist Progress Party (FrP) in government for the first time in Norway since it was founded in 1973, and with the Danish People’s Party (DPP) likely forming part of Denmark’s next government, Sweden is the only country in this part of Europe where populists haven’t clutched power.
The Swedish government of Stefan Löfven has succeeded, thanks to the support of other parties, given the far right Sweden Democrats the political cold shoulder.
After elections in Denmark, your example is even more important in light of the anti-immigration and right-wing populist shift being witnessed today in the Nordic region.
Thank you Sweden for being resolute and not caving in to populism and xenophobia.
I am grateful to Sweden for having the courage to stand up to the vicious us-and-them language being spread by parties like the FrP, DPP and PS.
Our problem in Finland with anti-immigration populists started in the last decade, when parties like the Social Democrats and National Coalition Party (NCP), which should know better, started to flirt with the PS.
The NCP, together with the Center Party, is sharing power in government with the PS.
In Finland in 2010 NCP chairman and prime minster, Jyrki Katainen, stated that being critical and debating immigrant issues in this country didn’t make you a racist. After that green light to racism, the Social Democratic Party under Jutta Urpilainen gave the PS another pat on the back with the infamous saying, maassa maan tavalla, or in Rome do as the Romans do.
The only merit of such poor leadership by Katainen and Urpilainen was that they lacked courage to stand up to victimization and racism of migrants and minorities. As far as they were concerned, such behavior wasn’t objectionable.
In Denmark matters have gone virile. Political commentator Kaspeer Fogh Hansen gave his view in the Guardian why the DPP emerged as the clear victor of the elections.
“We need to see the movements of voter groups to understand the whole picture,” he said, “but it seems that everyone has tried to match the Danish People’s party’s policies so much that it has vindicated the party – and then the voters chose the real thing.”
Today, you, dear friend in Sweden, are the only country that can restore sanity to this part of Europe and effectively challenge this force that is undermining and threatening our Nordic values. We need you to hold out and show leadership, which has been shamefully lacking in the rest of our region.
I’m not the only person who is disappointed with how matters are moving politically in this part of the world. There are many, many of us that will grow as a group as the lies and bigotry of anti-immigration parties are exposed even more when they form part of government.
Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of Finland (1994-2000), wrote to mark World Refugee Day Saturday that more leadership is needed.
“Instead of pandering to xenophobia,” he wrote, “governments need to show true leadership in explaining to their electorates why we have a moral duty to address this crisis.”
Not only are you keeping the Sweden Democrats in check, you were the second country in Europe after Germany that took in the most refugees. You gave 33,000 refugees asylum last year while in Finland, my country, the best we could do was accept a mere 1,430.
I am ashamed of many politicians in my country. And the list is sadly a very long one.
I am hopeful that your strategy to not play ball with parties that base their popularity on fear-mongering and stirring nativist-nationalist sentiment will help send the Sweden Democrats back to where they came from.
I am also optimistic that these dark political forces that are rumbling over this region today will not prevail.
Why? Because xenophobia, racism and bigotry are based on a huge lie and everyone knows that lies have short legs.
* The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English-language names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.