The ever-embattled Soini of the PS of Finland

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Perussuomalaiset (PS) party chairman, Timo Soini, appears more embattled every day as he watches with weary eyes polls. The latest one published by Helsingin Sanomat Saturday shows racism to be more acceptable among PS supporters.   

The latest revelations, including other ones like PS party members belonging to neo-Nazi associations such as the Suomen Kansallinen Vastarinta (SKL), show that the ever-embattled Soini has fewer explanations to offer and prefers to blame the media for being biased against his party.

If we were fair, Soini knows better than anyone else that the greatest enemy of the PS isn’t the Finnish media but the likes of PS MPs like Jussi Halla-aho, Teuvo Hakkarainen, Juho Eerola,  Tuomas Okkonen, a Perussuomalaiset (PS) party board vice president in Oulu, and others.

I’ve seen it many times happen during my long career as a journalist and foreign correspondent. Anytime a politician begins to blame the media for his problems, that politician or party is in deep water.

Ossi Mäntylahti asks  on his Uusi Suomi blog why can’t anyone comment on Soini’s blog and if he is following Halla-aho’s policy of not speaking to the media?

Soini’s cover as the “good cop” in an unpredictable party like the PS has eroded in the eyes of many voters.

Another factor that will hit the PS are the horrific events that took place in Norway on July 22, which have been a a hard blow to far right and right-wing populist parties in the Nordic region.

In light of the party’s ever-growing problems, it is surprising that Soini has  “nothing intelligent to say” as he points out on his blog.

He writes: “A political leader has two opportunities. To follow one’s plan or listen to other people’s plans. I have my own plan.”

It would be fair to Finland and to those who voted for the PS to have some idea what that plan is. At present it is entangled in a mess created by no one else but the PS.

  1. justicedemon

    I have asked the question several times before: which Finnish parliamentary political party should an authoritarian racist support? Which party would be least likely to expel a member for expressing authoritarian racist views?

    • Enrique

      JusticeDemon, good question but I think will be kept waiting. The PS “say what they think” but when people say what they think about them, or ask them hard questions, they refuse to speak.

  2. Mark

    – “He writes: “A political leader has two opportunities. To follow one’s plan or listen to other people’s plans. I have my own plan.”

    Interesting how he turns ‘not listening to other people’ into some kind of strength! Soini has ‘speaking the language of the people’ down to a fine art. He knows exactly what he’s doing and how to translate the policies of the Far Right into populist rhetoric that strikes a chord with ordinary people.

    In many ways, you can only fight fire with fire – if you get too intellectual or analytical with Soini, you play into his rhetoric on elites; if you take him seriously and try to talk politics, you end up looking an ass, because the world of real politics is too intricate, too bogged down in the problems of economy and competition.

    Politicians are very often cut off from the ‘ordinary people’, either through having enjoyed a life of relative privilege, been the accountants, lawyers or CEOs of large companies or been hanging around with the celebs too long. These are not negative things in themselves, but they just create a seperation to ordinary folk, so that politicians lose touch with how ordinary people think or discuss.

    I can say this because I’ve grown up on council estates, done plenty of manual labour jobs, been down the pub and heard the wisdom found at the bottom of a glass and also seen how the poor have to make ends meet week after week. I’ve also had a university education, been a director of several companies, come into contact with extremely successful and wealthy people, been involved in political activism and generally seen how the two worlds are indeed, ‘worlds apart’.

    The belief in the working classes is of something called ‘common sense’. It is a common reaction to any kind of ‘learning’ to assume that it has somehow robbed you of this ‘common sense’, and that to keep it, you have to keep one foot in the harsh realities of life.
    Life for a CEO can be harsh, but perhaps in a different way, and perhaps a way that is more relevant to political decision making, but it is not the same as being street wise in the poorer parts of the nation. And you don’t have to be poor to value this ‘working man’s ethic’. My generation have inherited it from our parents and grandparents.

    There is an irony about politics. At every level, the election comes around and the same promises are made – the street lights will be improved, the holes in the pavements repaired, youth clubs for the young to keep them out of trouble, better services for the elderly, better quality housing and proper family values at the heart of politics. And yet, 10 years later, another set of politicians are campaigning on exactly the same platform – was nothing actually done?

    The reality of politics is of course different. Progress is always being made. Sometimes, just standing still is progress. But it’s not surprising that ordinary people get very cynical with the ‘political game’ that’s played out with them as the pawns. Even while people happily borrow the crass arguments of politicians that mark out the territory of Left and Right, still people cannot really trust politicians, so when someone like Soini comes along, it seems like he’s one of us, someone who sees all the crap for what it is. It’s not that it is crap, it’s just the game that politicians play to get elected. It’s not even real politics – that is far far too detailed and boring to interest anyone except the most devoted of public servants or interest groups.

    Politicians are supposed to know how ordinary folk think through their consituency surgeries, through hearing the hum drum problems of ordinary folk, most of which they can do very little about. In fact, in the UK you are much more likely to get influence through a politician if you approach them through the local masonic lodge. 🙂 But politicians get cynical about ordinary voters. They know that most people want the system tweaked to suit just them, and they don’t realise that if it really was the way they expect it to be, then it would be an extremely unfair system in general. That isn’t to say the system cannot be improved, but that ordinary folk don’t always appreciate the thought that goes into constructing policy and regulation, or the safeguards and procedures put in place to deal with all the complexities of individual circumstances. Many times, the nub of the problem is just not enough cash. The answer isn’t to wave a magic wand, even though ordinary punters might think so. And politicians know this, so they get cynical and just imagine voters to be mostly selfish, which justifies them being just a little selfish about developing their own career and putting their energies into climbing the party machine rather than actually trying to address in real terms the concerns of ordinary voters. That doesn’t mean fixing everything – it really means just understanding things better, the perception of things and the reality, from several of many perspectives. I think many politicians do do this, but that many too lose any sense that ordinary folk have any knowledge that will really help them, other than the fact that they vote once every few years.

    Ironic isn’t it – that ordinary folk think politicians lack common sense, and politicians generally think that ordinary folk lack common sense. That divide is always ripe for someone like Soini!