The rise and fall of the Perussuomalaiset of Finland

by , under Enrique Tessieri

As support for the Perussuomalaiset (PS)[1] wanes with parliamentary elections only a heartbeat away on April 19, we are seeing a very different party  from four years ago. Back then, PS chairman Timo Soini was self-confident and campaigning confidently. He was the darling of the media, the new kid on the block, the underdog, the only credible anti-EU voice in the country romping opinion polls and sending political shock tremors. 

Matters have changed radically from 2011. We no longer see a self-confident Soini but a party that has run out of populist arguments and is scrambling unsuccessfully to repeat its historic election victory. Moreover, Soini doesn’t look even youthful as before but his image is a cause for worry since he has aged prematurely and there are health issues as well.

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Happy Flappy Soini is a popular game mocking the PS chairman. You can download the game (in Finnish) here.

 

The charismatic leader, who helped the PS rise from political obscurity to the third-biggest party in parliament in four years is now in retreat and on the defensive.

What happened?

An article in the New Statesman gives the following reason for the rise and fall of the PS:

In opposition, and rebranded as simply “the Finns”, the far-right revolution began to fade. The Finns soon found they outside of a coaliton, they were powerless. Meanwhile, they suffered a long string of very public controversies. In 2013, their MP James Hirvisaari was expelled for photographing of a friend posing in a Nazi salute outside [sic][2] Parliament, having previously been reprimanded for a series of Islamophobic and racist comments. Another high-ranking Finns Party MP, Jussi Halla-aho, has been investigated several times for inciting racial hatred.

Migrant Tales has always been critical of the PS and their motives. Their anti-immigration, homophobic and nativist nationalistic message is unsustainable politically.

PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen is one of many good examples of the party’s fall from political grace. Here’s an MP that has issues with alcohol and racism. Hakkarainen has even sent on his work phone pictures of his phallus, among other scandals.

It is incredible that in the age of the Internet, relatively cheap travel and globalization that some extremist groups are still hellbent on excluding others from being equal members of society. Behind all the rhetoric and political malarkey of the PS is its underlying message: Keep Finland white. 

Despite Soini’s repeated claims, that his party doesn’t even flirt with racism (sic!), the best example of how it uses a nativist nationalistic message in inciting nationalist fervor, which in turn fuels racism, was his decision to allow  MEP Jussi Halla-aho to draft the party’s program on immigration policy.

Soini claimed in 2009 that he’d sack any PS member if they got sentenced for inciting ethnic hatred. Halla-aho did but nothing happened to him. Soini instead defended his decision not to sack Halla-aho on BBC’s HARDTalk.

Another problem with the PS is that it has lost crediblity among voters because it is a volatile mixed bag of ideologies ranging from neo-Nazis and fascists to former communists. It hasn’t done anything in the opposition except whine.

Even if the PS will suffer a defeat in the April elections and even if there is a big possibility that it will eventually splinter and implode, the big question is what will emerge from the wreckage of the PS? Will we see in Finland openly far-right parties like the Sweden Democrats and Danish People’s Party?

That is one of the fears that the demise of the PS raises.

 

[1] The English name of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) is officially the Finns Party. The names 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. 

[2] Then PS MP James Hirvisaari, who was sentenced for ethnic agitation, took a picture of Seppo Lehto making a Nazi salute inside the parliament building.