The final countdown of the PS’ return to the political minor leagues begins as Timo Soini bows out as chairman in June

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman, Timo Soini, announced Sunday that he wouldn’t seek a new term as party head at the forthcoming party convention in Jyväskylä in early June. He has head the party since 1997.

As expected, PS parliamentary group leader Sampo Terho announced the following day that he’s vying for party leader. His biggest rival will be MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who will announce this week if he plans to throw his hat in the ring.

Under Soini, the PS has grown from the ashes of the former Rural Party to one of the biggest parties in parliament in the 2011 elections, when it captured 39 seats from 5 seats in 2007. In the 2015 parliamentary election the PS came in second place after the Center Party.

Few migrants, minorities and sensible Finns will miss PS chair Timo Soini when he gives up the chairmanship of the party in June. He is responsible for giving a political platform to a number of bigoted, racist and far-right politicians. Read the full blog here.

But those were the good times. Today, after joining government in 2015, the party has broken most of its campaign promises and seen as a result its poll standings plummet from 17.6% in the 2015 elections to below 10%, according to a latest poll by YLE.

In order to salvage its sinking ship and a sure defeat in the April 9 municipal elections, the PS’ stubbornly persists with its pet themes: anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric.

Halla-aho’s Islamophobic diatribe is well-known since the MEP was sentenced for ethnic agitation in 2012. While Sampo hasn’t been convicted for such charges, his political credentials are based on right-wing populism and anti-cultural diversity.

In a blog post, Sampo was clear about immigration policy: “The ongoing aim of the Perussuomalaiset party is to minimize asylum seekers [coming to Finland] with an effective [tightened] immigration policy.”

Root causes

For those who have followed the government’s tightening of asylum and immigration policy, the interesting question to ask is if such policies actually discourages asylum seekers from coming to Finland. Why haven’t we seen any studies supporting the latter? Why doesn’t the media ask this question?

The government’s favorite excuse for tightening immigration policy has been to undermine pull factors that attract asylum seekers to our country.

Finland has sent a clear message that people will be forcibly deported out of the country after they become undocumented migrants, or after receiving three rejections for asylum.

Ninety  civil society organizations that attended the European Migration Forum on March 2-3 put out the following statement that question plans by the EU Commission to speed up and detain asylum seekers. They fear that the new measures will cause more harm and suffering.

The joint statement reads:

“There is no evidence that immigration detention or forced removal has a deterrent effect, or is sustainable. Detention and forced returns are extremely harmful practices that have long-lasting severe physical and mental health impacts as well as high risks of suicide. Re-emigration rates among returnees are high and forced removal has not been shown to lower the migration aspirations of the communities where people are returned to.”

Why do asylum seekers come to Europe? If we listen to people like Terho, Halla-aho and other politicians from mainstream parties like Interior Minister Paula Risikko, asylum seekers only come here to live off the fat of the land.

But if we listen to the video below by Nassim Majidi of Migration Matters we find a totally different explanation. She states that one of the most important driving forces attracting a minority of the world’s asylum seekers to Europe isn’t social welfare but human rights and a myriad of other factors like political and economic instability.

“Discourse of human rights that is used for political purposes people really believe it,” stated Majidi. “And that is what brings them to come here not jobs but the promises of the human rights they are entitled to and that they learn about.”

If one speaks to some asylum seekers that came to Finland in 2015, you’ll hear the same answers as well. Even if Finnish politicians and public officials speak commonly that we are a society based on social equality, or tasa-arvo, the harsh reality is that most asylum seekers won’t be able to enjoy such right.

“Many times I think I am having a nightmare since that is what it feels like being [today an asylum seeker] in Finland,” an Iraqi told me recently. “But then I realize it’s not a nightmare but reality.”

Even if politicians like Terho, the PS and others are quick to claim that Europe is being “flooded” by asylum seekers, the assertion couldn’t be further from the truth.  Finland took in during 2015 and 2016 about 38,000 asylum seekers. Much poorer countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Chad, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo below accepted 11,799,200 refugees.

The percentage of 38,000 out of 11,799,200 is only 0.322%!

For sensible migrants, minorities and Finns, the PS and most Finnish political parties with some exceptions are hostile to us.

With Soini leaving the PS, few of us will therefore miss him.

I believe that the final countdown of the party has begun that will return it to the political minor leagues where it belongs.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”