Timo Soini and the denial of Finland’s racism problem

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman Timo Soini announced after being at the helm of the anti-immigration party for twenty years that he’ll step down as chairman in June. The narrative and the way that some newspapers and politicians are picturing Soini is a good example of Finland’s denial of racism. 

Who gave a voice and platform to politicians that have made their political careers on spreading racism and bigotry like Jussi Halla-aho, Sampo Terho, Olli Immonen, James Hirvisaari, Tony Halme and a very long list of others? All you have to do is to take a look at the hateful quotes these politicians have made against migrants and minorities to understand the connection between Soini and them.

Why is it difficult to exclude and call out a party like the PS, Soini and its politicians as racist bigots?

The answer is simple: Very little to no cultural and ethnic diversity.

Racism doesn’t impact them directly and it’s invigorating for some of them to watch since they reinforce their closet racism.

PS MP and leader of the party’s parliamentary group Sampo Terho is worried about white Europeans becoming a minority due to Muslims. Source: Verkkouutiset.

While there are many examples of how our denial of racism is perpetuated, a few recent examples highlight how it’s done. One of these is Social Democratic Party MEP Liisa Jaakonsaari who said in last week’s A-studio:Talk that Soini was now ok because “he’s not a racist.”

“I respect Timo Soini,” she said. “He has said a number of times that he isn’t a racist, even if I want votes of the racists, I’m not racist [he’s said].”

Pointing her finger at PS MP Ville Tavio on the talk show, who admitted that the populist party wants to forge ties with far-right anti-immigration parties in Europe, the SDP MEP said that Soini has distanced himself from far-right politicians like Geert Wilders.

With all respect for this veteran politician, why does Jaakonsaari defend Soini if she’s criticized him before for his populism, pro-Israeli and anti-EU stances?

Is it because racism isn’t a serious issue in Finland? Since it isn’t a serious issue people can switch opinions with the wink of an eye problem solved.

Another example is a Helsingin Sanomat column by Yrjö Rautio who claims that the PS is slipping into “a dark and evil period” with the possible election of Sampo Terho or Jussi Halla-aho as chairman of the party.

As a minority in Finland that “dark and evil period” that Rautio explains was felt by me before the 2011 parliamentary elections, when the PS captured 39 seats from 5 previously.

Why does Rautio believe that Soini isn’t a part of that “dark and evil period?”

Yes, he’s a white columnist.

Denial is one of the reasons why racism has grown in Finland and why many complain of the anti-immigration atmosphere. If you have politicians who have racist world views and base their careers on such social ills like bigotry the answer should be clear.


I can offer a very long and shameful list of the racist and bigoted comments made by Finnish politicians in general and the PS in particular. I can give you as well a list of how the Finnish media has colluded with such politicians to spread a message of hatred towards migrants and minorities in this country.

Racism is so deeply denied in Finland that politicians like Maria Tolppanen, a former PS MP who has made numerous racist statements, can be accepted with open arms to the SDP. Her defection to the SDP is a good example that still in Finland racism is a cordial chat between white people.

Speaker of parliament, Maria Lohela, is another shameful example. She built her political career help with the help of a strong Islmophobic message.

She too now suffers from amnesia but that’s not all: She was even chosen as an example of impeccable manners by an association.

Politicians like Sampo, Lohela and many others may forget their racist past but we certainly will never forget who they are and where they came from.

The official translation to Finnish of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party is the Finns Party. In our opinion, it is not only a horrible translation, but one that is misguided. A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Such terms like the Finns Party of True Finns promote as well in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and thereafter the acronym PS.