This year has been disastrous for the populist Perussuomalaiset (PS)* for several reasons. The first hiccup came in last year’s municipal election, when the party, guided by promising opinion polls, expected to win but came in fourth place. Then came an even worse wreck: the county election in January, when its support dove to 11%.
Despite these setbacks, the biggest one yet was going to land in chairperson Riikka Purra’s footsteps: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With Putin’s invasion, populist parties in Europe – including the PS – suffered a massive blow since It was a wake-up call about what dangers and limits of populism.
While populists like the PS cannot enjoy the same dictatorial powers that Putin has, people in the West fear that democracy is in danger. Populist parties can pave the way for an autocratic regime, wars, destruction, and the tragic loss of lives that such calamities bring.
In one of the most powerful editorials ever written about the PS by Helsingin Sanomat, it cited MEPs like Laura Huhtasaari and why the PS are members of the far-right bloc Identity and Democracy (ID) that is the most pro-Putin in the EU?
The editorial suggested that MEPs like Huhtasaari in the ID group were “useful idiots” and since the war was not going to plan for Putin, populist politicians were rats abandoning a sinking ship.
Another sign that populists like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán are losing support due to his close ties to Putin, was the cancellation of a meeting of the Visegrad Four defense ministers in Budapest on Wednesday. The Czech and Polish defense ministers refused to take part in the meeting due to Orban’s close relationship with Russia, according to Radio Prague International.
The latest example of the PS having lost its way was an announcement by Purra flip-flopped on NATO membership.
In July 2021 she wrote: “No [I do not support NATO membership]. If Finland had joined NATO, it should have happened in the early 1990s. There is no longer such a possibility or “option” in practice and it should not seek it now.
An independent, credible national defense is the foundation of everything. Defense policy cooperation must continue, but it is only an added addition that serves the latter.”