Post-April 17 Finland: A protest vote against whom?

by , under All categories, Enrique

Enrique Tessieri

One reads and hears less these days about the reasons why the Perussuomalaiset (PS) scored such a big election victory in April. While casting a protest vote is a positive signs that our democracy functions, what did the voters actually contend? Political corruption? Immigration? Refugees? Mandatory Swedish? Ever-growing income gaps and social inequality?  

Since politicians and political parties have the most to gain from an election and the voters the least, some campaigns are carried out like aggressive used-car salesmen. The newer the party the more exaggerated its promises, while the more traditional ones give different sales pitches.

The PS, which is the new kid on the big party block, did a good job because it instilled fear and awoke passions so you’d buy its used car.

What the PS salesman won’t tell you are the real problems of the vehicle you purchased. Some of these are that the car has had ten owners, the mileage meter has been tampered, sawdust has been mixed with the oil and that he is charging you 80% more than the real price of the car.

Apart from the anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-Islam sales pitch of many PS MP candidates, some voters are already noticing that they purchased a lemon.

One does not have to be a political scientist to understand that Finland will never find effective solutions to its challenges in Timo Soini’s simplistic sound bites and by polarizing our society between “true Finns” and “untrue Finns.”

Like a person that attracts bad company, the most unfortunate and questionable side of Soini’s PS has been its far-right wing led by MPs who are members of Suomen Sisu. Almost every week there is a worrisome revelation by the media about Jussi Halla-aho, who we now know disliked human rights in 2001 because they encouraged tolerance between black and white people.

The worst lemons of the PS are Halla-aho and his PS MP followers like James Hirvisaari, Olli Immonen, Juho Erola and others. They are selling you a car that runs on the ideology of Nazi war criminal Alfred Rosenberg, David Duke, former head of the Klu Klux Klan, and Michael Levin. All this, of course, in an early twenty-first century Finnish context.

If Soini’s party was incapable of capitalizing on such a big election victory by entering government it is doubtful that they’ll be given a second chance by the voters.

Voters do protest but they want results as well.

    • Enrique

      Hi Henrik thank you for pointing that out! Welcome to Migrant Tales.

  1. Niko

    I guess some people voted for PS because they couldn’t find any other party to vote? See the other options: National Coalition Party who wants to raise taxes for poor people and who cares only about EU, Centre Party was corrupted, SDP who is always changing their minds, Green party which wants to bankrupt Finland, Swedish People’s Party who are racist toward Finnish speaking people etc. And no, I didn’t vote for PS, but I do understand why some people did.

    And PS was the only party who at least had an opinion and wanted to discuss for the things you mentioned (refugees, mandatory Swedish etc.)

    • Enrique

      NIko, well at least 19.1% thought that there wasn’t an option. A protest vote is always good to stir things but what I don’t understand is why it includes so much nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment. Considering that Finland only has 2.9% foreigners, do you think it is fair for politicians to use this small group in order to further their political career?

      Even though Timo Soini says that anti-immigration sentiment accounted for 10% of the support that the PS got, I disagree. Much of the rise of the PS is attributable to anti-immigration. There was a big shift in this in the 2008 municipal elections when Toni Halme became the rising star due to his stance against immigrants. Soini smelled the coffee and has taken advantage of this. He is riding the crest of the xenophobic wave. That is why he does not condemn his Suomen Sisu MPs. Kicking them out would force that crest to subside prematurely.

  2. Niko

    Well, I think foreigners are getting more attention now, because we have had now two summers Romanian beggars in Helsinki which we have never had before. And also people might be afraid that we are following Sweden’s path with severe integration issues. I don’t think PS voters have anything against foreigners itself, but they are afraid that Finland will attract lot’s of so called “bad apples”.

    • Enrique

      Niko, honestly, a few Romanian Roma come to Finland and it is a national issue?! A bit of an overkill here. Or are some groups like the PS trying to reap the most political points off these people’s backs?

      Tell me what are Sweden’s “severe integration” issues. Remember that in the 1970s Sweden imported a lot of labor immigrants, even from Finland. While you are at it, could you also tell us exactly where Finland’s integration policy has failed?

  3. Niko

    I probably should add also this: Finland’s current integration is not working as it should. They should spend much more money and design it better to avoid the problems which other countries has. Unfortunately, that is the thing which they don’t have currently: money. So, which one do you think is a better option from these two bad options:

    A) Finland takes lot’s of foreigners, but without working integration plan. Finland might face the same issues than in other European countries.
    B) Finland takes less foreigners and is more selective, but tries to integrate them better to our society. However, this might affect to Finland’s reputation and work power.

    Also I think there should be more discussion in the newspapers / media from immigrants side. What do they expect, what are the problems and if there are any solutions for them. And also from natives side what they expect from immigrants. Even we have only 2,9% foreigners, most people look in the future and try to avoid the problems before they exists.

    • Enrique

      –A) Finland takes lot’s of foreigners, but without working integration plan. Finland might face the same issues than in other European countries.

      If you look at a survey, Finland had the fourth-best integration plan after Sweden, Portugal and Canada. What’s the beef? Is this another stereoype being spread by the PS? If you are honest with yourself, Finland has over 60 years experience in administrating a welfare state, which is comprehensive. Is the question here that some PS and anti-immigration groups are not happy how the integraton program is working because it does not meet their narrow views on cultural diversity?

      –B) Finland takes less foreigners and is more selective, but tries to integrate them better to our society. However, this might affect to Finland’s reputation and work power.

      Doesn’t it do that already?

  4. Niko

    Well, if Sweden’s integration plan is working I don’t see it. Does Malmö ring any bells? If those are the best integrations plan, then it doesn’t work or we have lot’s to work to do. You are quite often comparing 70’s and Finns moving to Sweden. Are you really saying that people coming different part of the world can be compared to people coming from the country next to you? The culture difference is HUGE. I’m not talking immigrants coming from Europe, but from other parts of the world.

    And if you have followed newspapers, Roma beggars was a big news last summer and even this year. So, it wasn’t just PS who pointed them out.

    There is at least one thing which Finland could do to help immigrants and I don’t think it would even cost much: establish some kind of network for the immigrants and voluntary natives. It could be some kind of meeting once a week where immigrants and natives can meet each other, share their views and help immigrants to integrate. Of course, this would be just recommend to foreigners, not mandatory. When I have been living abroad, I have always tried to get to know some local peoples before I’m even going there. Unfortunately it is not possible for all immigrants.

  5. Martin-Éric

    There is a clear disconnect between what the Integration Act allegedly implements, versus what is offered in reality. That very fact was recently raised at a University of Helsinki (CEREN) seminar to which I had the priviledge of receiving a last-minute invitation. Finland’s success in various international rankings mostly relies upon the theory of what each Ministry has set as a policy; those international studies seldom examine the concrete results on the field but, when they do, Finland invariably loses points.

    • Enrique

      Hi Martin-Éric, nice to hear from you. You make a good point: How much are some of these courses, especially Finnish-language classes, available to immigrants.

  6. Seppo

    – Considering that Finland only has 2.9% foreigners..

    I know I’m risking sounding very PS or even Homma, and maybe this isn’t the best place for this question, but I would like to know where do you get this figure?

    I believe you are talking about the number of people living in Finland with a foreign citizenship. If we want to discuss the number of immigrants in Finland, that figure won’t do. There are almost 250 000 people here born outside Finland – that is almost 5% of the population.

    There are even more people with some immigrant background, meaning they are born outside Finland or at least one of their parents is born outside Finland. This figure can be nowadays as high as 6-7% of the population. For this I have even a reference: Tuomas Martikainen, 2010. He is a well-known immigration researcher in Finland. He has combined different stats in order to get to that figure since there are no exact stats about second generation immigrants.

    Judging from different figures I have seen I believe that about 10% of children born today in Finland have at least one immigrant parent. In the capital reagon that figure can be much higher, even 20%? In 2007 26% of all marriages in Helsinki at least one person was a foreigner. I believe this figure is even higher now in 2011.

    These figures are really high considering the very short history of immigration to Finland. So just by stating that there are “only 2,9% foreigners” in the country you miss the big picture.

  7. Klay_Immigrant

    -‘B) Finland takes less foreigners and is more selective, but tries to integrate them better to our society. However, this might affect to Finland’s reputation and work power.’

    Niko, please explain further how this might affect Finland’s reputation and work power? For me this sounds very sensible, something governments in various countries in Europe should have implemented a long time ago to avoid the immigration problems we have today. Sure if there are labour shortages that cannot be filled by Finns then suitably qualified immigrants are needed but that’s not the reason why certain groups were allowed to settle in Finland in the first place. Reputation? Well the only people I could think of that would be critical of Finland for being highly selective are the hardcore liberals who if 100,000 illiterates knocked on Finland’s doorstep tomorrow would happily accept and house them with no questions asked at the expense of the natives.

  8. Allan

    “Almost every week there is a worrisome revelation by the media about Jussi Halla-aho, who we now know disliked human rights in 2001 because they encouraged tolerance between black and white people.”

    I think Halla-aho said: “Aiemmin ihmisoikeuksilla on tarkoitettu ihmisen oikeutta toteuttaa itseään ja elää omalla tavallaan, ilman että siihen puututaan ilman perustavaa laatua olevia syitä. Sittemmin ihmisoikeuksilla on ruvettu lähinnä tarkoittamaan jonkun ihmisryhmän oikeutta jonkun toisen ihmisryhmän rahoihin.”

    I think if “tolerance between black and white people” doesn’t mean living off welfare.

    • Enrique

      I think you are getting things confused, Allan. Certainly there is always an economic benefit to the country from immigration. To claim that it hasn’t brought profits (economic and social) to Canada is walking on thin ice.
      One matter that I have never understood are the provocative adjectives used by anti-immigration groups. In Finland, these groups try to show that Finnish public officials don’t know what they are doing and that the integration program is “in shambles” as you wrote.

      I believe that your whole approach to the topic is based on ideology. Since you see immigration as something negative and apparently follow people like Jussi Halla-aho, your views have a definite agenda.
      If you go a little bit deeper, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that Halla-aho and his followers are totally against cultural diversity. This means visible immigrants in all senses of the world. This does not include visible immigrants but gays as well.

      The only cultural diversity Halla-aho seems to stomach is an “Aryan-looking” German that throws away his culture so his kids will be Finns in his eyes. His narrow views of other cultures and how they interact date back to how some Europeans saw their societies in the nineteenth century and up to WW2.

      Ever thought why Halla-aho does not condemn Alfred Rosenberg and David Duke, both who are the antithesis of multiculturalism, or cultural diversity? He appears to have got inspiration from Michael Levin, who is against homosexuals and believes that blacks are inferior to whites. It’s all pretty clear where Halla-aho is coming from if you take the time to place all the pieces together.

      The problem with the PS Nuiva manifesto is that it is a document based on assimilation/amalgamation and how those that signed it would want to see immigrants blend into Finland. If you read the first sentences, the manifesto claims that Finland should not follow Sweden’s multiculturalism. Is Sweden a multicultural country like Canada? I don’t think so. Not even Finland is officially a multicultural country.

      Whenever Halla-aho and his group speak against multiculturalism, they are making a strong statement against all visible immigrants living in this country. In their very limited view of cultural diversity, their favorite scapegoat are the Somalis and Muslims. But here is the crux of xenophbia: You can’t bash one group and not expect that it doesn’t spill over on all immigrants living here.

      So to conclude: The hidden agenda behind Halla-aho and many anti-immigration groups is their outright hostility to otherness. In many respects, their views of society are similar to 1930s Germany. Certainly we have to see this in a 2011 Finnish context. But there is one matter that unites both periods: loathing to cultural diversity and the conviction that society can live and prosper with many ethnic groups.

      Saska Saarikoski said on Pressiklubi that forums like Hommaforum are like Matryoshka dolls: The first is a so-called “critical of immigration” individual final doll you open up is dressed in Nazi uniform.

  9. Allan

    Well of course you see immigration as a good thing and ghettoes just enriching culture. What exactly is the economic and social profit of say the roma beggars have brought to Helsinki?

  10. Allan

    And what comes to “human rights” – here is a prime example:

    A Bradford man convicted of drug smuggling has won his appeal against deportation to Pakistan after a court ruled it would breach his human rights.

    Abdul Waheed Khan, 34, who is originally from Pakistan but has lived in Britain since 1978, was convicted of smuggling heroin in 2003.

    On his release in 2006, the Home Office moved to deport him.

    The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that deporting Khan would “not be proportionate”.

    The ECHR ruled that if Khan were deported it would violate his right to respect for his family and private life, contained in Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

    So – protecting the society (many) of an addictive and society-destroying drug, is aggainst the “human rights” of a drug smuggler (one). How about the “human rights” of the many, the innocents who have to suffer from the effects of this? Law-abiding citizens do seem to be lacking human rights, whereas criminals are the ones having them.

  11. JusticeDemon


    How much do you know about the details of that case?

    I’m guessing – not much.

    But don’t let your ignorance ever stop you from declaring an opinion.

    If you knew anything at all about the law underlying that ECtHR judgment, then you would understand that there must be further factors involved. Article 8 does not normally suffice in cases of this kind.

    Did you notice that this man was about three years old when he came to the UK? That’s a very loud clue to the court’s reasoning, which was covered in greater detail in the Sunday Times. If you think this judgement is incorrect in law, then you can contact Päivi Hirvelä and explain your reasoning. Her e-mail address at the Office of the Prosecutor General of Finland should still be active ( I’m sure they could do with a laugh. Perhaps you can also explain how you would change the law concerned. They can circulate that one as a loppukevennys before the holiday season.