Timo Soini to retire from politics

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Foreign Minister Timo Soini, 56, who inspired Islamophobes, racists and conservative nationalists to have a political voice and platform to lash out at migrants and minorities, announced that he will not seek a new term in parliament, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Soini, who calls himself a devout Catholic, will be remembered as a conservative populist politician who led the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* to national prominence by capitalizing on populist anti-immigration sentiment. 

Soini, who hails from Rauma, led the PS as chairman for twenty years (1997-2017), served as MP during 2001-09 and 2011-2019, EuroMP 2009-2011, Espoo city councillor 2001-2009, minister for European affairs (2015-2017), and foreign minister (2015-2019).

Despite Soini’s long list of political merits, some see him as an anti-immigration populist and nationalist who objected women’s and gay rights and anti-abortionist. His fondness for far-right politicians like Morten Messerschmidt of the Danish People’s Party, which the PS has close ideological ties, have not gone unnoticed.

Soini has shown support against EU plans to put Poland under greater scrutiny of nationalist conservative Polish Law and Justice party and shown support as foreign minister for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. He also took part in anti-abortion marches and has participated in the prayer breakfast sessions organized by the US Congress and hosted by the US President Donald Trump.

Soini’s political history is a rise-and-fall tale when he rose to prominence after the 2011 parliamentary elections but came down in flames after his chief rival, Jussi Halla-aho, took over the helm of the PS in June 2017.

It is sweet irony that Soini, who used Islamophobes and far-right voices to opportunistically rise to power, became his downfall.

One of the most important signals to emerge from the end of Soini’s political era is that “moderate populism” has given way to “extremist populism.” After the 2011 parliamentary election, Soini and the PS’ anti-immigration wing debated the main reason for the party’s good showing in the election. Soini claimed it was anti-EU sentiment while politicians like Halla-aho said it was anti-immigration.

Timo Soini gets a grilling on BBC Hardtalk.

Eating wieners from a cup with his wife Tiina Soini has become one of Soini’s image trademarks. Source: Ilta-Sanomat.

Whatever the reason, Soini got his fingers burned badly in 2017 when Halla-aho was elected as chairperson of the PS over Sampo Terho, who Soini backed. This caused the long-awaited implosion of the PS to split into two parties.

Some speculate that Soini’s announcement will be another nail in the coffin of Blue Reform, whose popularity in the polls hovers around 1.5%,

Most migrants and minorities will not regret Soini’s exit from politics but worry more about darker political forces that the minister unleshed and gave a political voice.

The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13, 2017, into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity never mind Muslims and other visible minorities. One is more open about it while the other says it in a different way.

A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.