Populism and lack of leadership under Petteri Orpo fuel Kokoomus’ tailspin

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) received a political bomb that exposed the party’s internal strife between its liberal and populist-conservative wing.

Kokoomus’ candidate for Helsinki mayor, Kirsi Piha, and Helsinki city councilor Hanna Gullichsen, both party’s liberal wing, announced they would step aside.

Piha stated in a blog posting her decision to pull out from the mayorship race of Helsinki exposed the deep ideological fight between the liberal and populist-conservative factions.

Just like Piha, who said she would not stand for Helsinki city council, so did Gullichsen announced not to seek reelection.

Both Piha and Gullichsen were clear about their decision.

Piha said that her values conflict with the leadership of Kokoomus under its leader, Petter Orpo.

“Kokoomus’ base value is to create wellbeing and active society where everyone has opportunities, work and to live a good life,” she wrote. “Everyone. It is not based on stereotypes and by the thought that marginalizes [other groups]. Human dignity must not be politicized.”

Following Piha’s words, Gullichsen was just as straightforward: “Speech that intentionally offends groups of people have no place in a [party that promotes] civility.”

As Migrant Tales has alerted during the past months, populist-conservative Kokoomus politicians like Wille Rydman, Atte Kaleva, Miia Autero, and others.

One of the matters that unite the populist-conservative faction is that they would be willing to forge closer ties with the far-right Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party and retched-up Islamophobic sentiment in Finland.

One of the favorite catchphrases of the PS is “controlled immigration.” Autero has produced a Kokoomus version of the latter: “controlled internationalization.”

I have sent a message to Autero asking her what the difference is between the two.

One of the biggest problems facing Kokoomus at this moment is their wishy-washy lack of leadership under Orpo, who is a closet xenophobe.

As an interior minister (2015-2016) in Juha Sipilä’s government (2015-2019), Orpo was responsible for tightening Finland’s immigration laws. Below are some of the changes:

  • Free legal representation restricted to applicants who required exceptional grounds for assistance;
  • Deadline for appeals was lowered from 30 to 21 days after a second rejection and to 14 days after the third rejection;
  • The government tightened appeal times in the hope of ejecting asylum seekers faster from Finland;
  • There were further administrative restrictions and practical difficulties making the application process more complicated;
  • Tightened family reunification laws;
  • No time limit on detaining families with children in immigration removal centers like Joutseno and Metsälä;
  • Lack of government leadership in tackling Islamophobia and racism contributed to Finland’s hostile environment affecting migrants and inhumane immigration policy.

The Social Democrats learned the hard way in 2011 that it is not worth flirting or poorly imitating the PS. Why would voters want a poor version of the latter to get the real thing by voting for the PS?

The Social Democrats showed that with the right leadership in the case of Prime Minister Sanna Marin, it is possible to beat the PS in its own game.

If the latest opinion polls are anything to go by, expect Kokoomus and the Center Party to face setbacks at the cost of the PS.

It’s clear that if Kokoomus suffers a stinging blow in the municipal elections, the calls for his resignation will grow louder.