By Enrique Tessieri
Anti-immigration populist parties in Norway and Denmark have suffered defeats in recent elections after mass-killer Anders Breivik went on the rampage on July 22. Both blows came this month. The first one was in the Norwegian municipal election, where the Progress Party (FrP) saw its support plunge by 6.1 percentage points to 11.5%. The second one happened Thursday in Denmark.
The neck-and-neck election in Denmark, which gave the left-leaning alliance led by the Social Democrats a victory, meant in effect an end to the pivotal role that the far-right Danish People’s Party (DPP) has played in the passage of strict immigration laws.
The election was historic since it will give Denmark its first-ever woman prime minister. The prime minister-elect, Helle Thoring-Schmidt, has said that she will refuse to work with the DPP and thereby stunt the influence of Pia Kjærsgaard’s party.
Even though Breivik forced voters in the Nordic region and Europe to think twice before supporting parties that use immigration as a populist ploy to prop up support, it was only a question of time when the anti-immigration message of the FrP and DPP would reach a dead-end. How long can people feed off xenophobia and simplistic views of other cultures and the world?
The big question to ask now is how the election results in Norway and Denmark will impact the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party in 2012, when Finland holds presidential and municipal elections.
Voters in Norway, Denmark and even in Sweden, where the far-right Sweden Democrats have seen their support decline in a post-Breivik world, have spoken: We don’t like hate speech, far-right nationalism and populism. It should not characterize our political system.
One of the reasons why the PS still does well in the polls in Finland is because it has become today an anti-EU party as opposed to one that is mainly anti-immigration. If PS MP Juss Halla-aho and his cronies would have gone on the anti-immigration rampage as they did before the April election, Timo Soini’s party would probably have seen a sharp fall in its popularity today.
It would be naive, however, to think that the PS has now shifted course on its anti-immigration message. It is still there as an undercurrent ready to surface when the political situation is opportune.
Voters in Finland, like those in Norway and Denmark, should make it clear next year that we in Finland want a civil debate about immigration not one characterized by free-for-all hate speech.
Hopefully this election result will help to bring some relief to the situation of migrants held in cold storage in Denmark.
JusticeDemon, a very moving story by Al Jazeera. Denmark has become a bad example even for the PS. Everything has its limit. Spreading lies and xenophobia about immigrants and refugees has its limits as well. We saw this happen in Norway and Denmark this month. What has been happening in Denmark to refugees is a tragedy.
It’s this cold storage aspect that defines the policy differences between Denmark and other EU Member States. This is what PS is recommending for Finland.
Yes, true, JusticeDemon and many other things as well.
The only worry I have is that I’ve been witnessing racist and xenophobic behaviour here in Finland among ordinary people for the last two decades, long before we started hearing names like Timo Soini or Halla-Aho. I believe the PS just gave voice to them, but there has always been racism here in Finland. Twenty, or even just ten years ago people didn’t talk openly about immigration, but the general attitude towards foreigners was the same, if not worst. At least, the fact that today many governmental offices are forced to implement somehow the equality act, has given some results, thanks to the EU. However, we still have a long way to go, PS or not.
Hi Max and nice to see you on Migrant Tales. Two decades ago there were very few immigrants but as you said racism and strong anti-foreign sentiment was prevalent. Back then there were no laws such as the Non-Discrimination Act and the old 1919 Constitution wasn’t very enthused about immigrants and minorities. You put it very well: “I believe the PS just gave voice to them (racists).”
I hope, and I am confident, that Finland will understand that toying and flirting with racism is the same as tearing down your democratic and Nordic values of social equality. That is what is at stake today in Finland and in many parts of Europe.
We hope to hear more of you, Max.
It’s too far away (next year) and sadly I don’t think Finns have the same kinship with Norway that Denmark do. It would be nice if something good came out of the killings with a mass uprising against racism… but I don’t see it being too likely here.
Hi Elisa you may be right but I hope that we will have the courage to stand up against this social ill for the sake of our children and future generations.
I would think, this meang that the goal have been achieved and now these party are useless.
I hope you are right Asian but I think we are still far from rendering these parties useless. They have got a big blow in Norway and Denmark. Let’s how things pan out next year in Finland.
Enrique, the problem your logic is that (or I believe) most of the True Finns supporters don’t see them as a racist or even far-right party. EU bailout is probably much bigger issue and if Greek collapse before the election, I believe there might be even bigger “jytky” for the True Finns than last time.
Niko, I have called the PS a right-wing populist party. The matter that unites them with other parties in this league is their anti-EU, anti-immigration and especially anti-Islam stance. The PS is a mixed bag of ideologies. One of these gets a lot of attention: the far right anti-immigration wing led by Jussi Halla-aho. They are pretty much in the same ideological league as the Danish People’s Party. The term “far right” has changed. Today it can mean “Counter-Jihadist” or being pro-Israel and anti-Nazi. But there is one overriding characteristic: race or ethnicity and loathing for cultural diversity.
Even though Europe is in a mess these days, there is a big difference between what the PS wants to be done compared with other mainstream parties. The difference is that the PS wants Finland out of the euro and for the EU to implode. The reason why the PS want to see the demise of the EU is because they believe that an end to the EU will make us richer and more independent. If the EU fails we will end up being poorer and there will be greater chances for war.