The recent rise of the anti-immigration True Finns in the polls should be taken with a generous dose of salt. Does it represent the will of the people and how much of it will translate into MPs for the True Finns in the April 2011 elections is another story.
What is interesting, however, is how the other parties are reacting to the poll results.
In many respects the polls have helped a lot of extremist views to get out of the closet. Such people mistakenly believe that it is now normal to have far-right views on matters such as immigration since the “polls tell us that we are no longer a small minority.”
Some members of the left are labelling the True Finns a fascist party while those in the right like to call them populists. What about if we called them an anti-immigration party that does not like anything foreign? By foreign I mean the EU, immigrants, diversity etc. Is that the type of Finland Finns want to build in the future? I doubt it.
There are many reasons why the True Finns have fared well in the polls. The recession is a key factor as well as the scandals that have ridden Finland’s ruling political parties.
Should we be worried about the rise of xenophobia in Finland? Certainly yes. Is it a problem? Not really but could become one if we continue to give it more attention than is necessary. In every society there will be extremists. The best defense against these radical groups is our democratic liberal system that permits freedom of speech no matter how outrageous their message is.
A lot of things can happen until the April elections. One matter is for certain: The extremists of the True Finns party are a minority in every sense of the word.
Their dubious success does not depend on their message but on our reaction to it.
Keep a cool head, Finland.