Tuesday, April 05, 2011

What's the truth about the True Finns?

We have received a couple of comments in regards to our blog post below on the rise of populist parties in the wake of the eurozone bail-outs. Some have been unhappy about our assertion that the Front National is gaining ground in French politics, whereas others have taken issue with us mentioning the True Finns in the same breath as the Front National and FPÖ (the expression "not as bad as FPÖ" has caused particular offence).

But on the point about the True Finns, a clarification might be appropriate. The True Finns party, or Perussuomalaiset in Finnish, has its roots in an anti-incumbency, rural protest movement from the 1950s, leading to the formation of a political party, eventually named the Finnish Rural Party. The party's dissolution in 1995 led to the creation of the True Finns (one of the party's slogans, "Crush the power hold of the old parties", is testament to its heritage). More than anything else, its euroscepticism seems to flow out of this tradition (which also explains its opposition to providing more cash to the temporary eurozone bail-out fund, the EFSF, for more bail-outs - bail-outs which we agree aren't really working).

So clearly, the party has very different roots compared to other Scandinavian populist parties, such as the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People's Party (for Swedish speakers, here's an article breaking it down). The Front National, Geert Wilder's Freedom Party etc are much farther away again from the True Finns.

In other words, the party cannot be described as "far right", as some non-Finnish media insist on so doing. However, it cannot be described as "centre-right" either, as it draws heavily from an old school, social democratic agenda (i.e. high taxes and a big welfare state). Kind of like a social democratic tea party, with a lot of emphasis on national sovereignty and independence.

According to an opinion poll published today, the party has lost some ground over the last few days, and are now fourth in the race (compared to second in a poll published the other week) - a race that is still wide open it has to be said.

What makes this interesting for the EU and the eurozone is that Finland is the first Triple A eurozone country in which euro bail-outs have become a national election issue. As the leader of the True Finns, Timo Soini, put it, the election might evolve into the referendum which the Finnish people were refused when the euro was first introduced.

We shall see.

5 comments:

Andrew Smith said...

Use of the term "right wing" is now worse than useless; it is confusing. It is doubtful if the term"left wing" has much purpose either.

It used to be the case that national liberation movements were characterised as left wing or even communist, whereas those now seeking national liberation from the status of EU colonies are usually described as of the right.

Clearly the issues of national self-government, democracy, accountable government, economic organisation, tax levels and individual liberty are all quite different issues. Trying to mix variable combinations of these nand call the result "right wing" cannot fail to distort and confuse.

Oskari Juurikkala said...

Thanks you for this posting. Coming from Finland, I'm frequently annoyed by the misrepresentation of True Finns in the international press. It has to be admitted, though, that national press is sometimes guilty of that too.

What makes True Finns interesting is precisely that it cannot be put into these established categories that the elitist/establishment left-wing press usually invokes. That is also one reason why the party is getting so much support in Finland.

Open Europe blog team said...

Thanks for those comments. It's worth pointing out, however, that the True Finns aren't exactly positive about immigration, so there's that link to other populist parties. The party wants to reduce the number of asylum seekers that Finland accepts every year - and this in a country that in total accepted only 700 asylum seekers in 2010 (compared to its neighbour Sweden which accepted close to 30,000 in 2010)...

Anonymous said...

"The party wants to reduce the number of asylum seekers that Finland accepts every year - and this in a country that in total accepted only 700 asylum seekers in 2010 (compared to its neighbour Sweden which accepted close to 30,000 in 2010)..."

This is very important point but in other way you would expect. Whenever somebody wants to brand True Finns as being anti-immigrant, xenophobic or whichever term they prefer to use, they always bring out this "700 refugees are not that much, stop whining"-card. Unfortunately 700 refugees is not the same as the number of social security shoppers we receive yearly. True Finns tend to support the acceptance of the 700 quota refugees per year and some are even willing to increase the quota. It's the asylum seekers who do not meet the Geneva convention asylum criterium that cause the problem.

We received last year over 6000 asylum seekers mostly from Somalia and of the 6000 people about 2% received political asylum status. That means additional 120-200 people with a good reason to stay. Not that many, but here's the catch: the rest of the 6000 people also get to stay in Finland! The reason being that under the current administration it's considered not safe for them to return to their own country as there is a war going on or in some cases that returning them to their home country would be too difficult as there are no handy transport connections going that way. And if somebody gets to stay because of these "humanitarian protection" clauses, they can also apply for family reunification and bring their families to Finland as well. There are currently over 5000 family reunification applications lined up. The family reunifications make the effect of one person being allowed to stay approach exponential growth as the families are much bigger than Finnish families. In the record case 21 people were allowed in under family reunification after the inital arrival of 1 family member.

Of the Somalis arriving in the last 5 years about 80-90% are illiterate even in their own language and do not possess any skills which would make them easily employable in a Western highly educated society. Unemployment rate among the Somalis is about as high as the illiteracy rate among the new arrivals, especially since their culture makes it almost impossible for women to work. Each asylum seeker allowed to stay is therefore very likely to end up unemployed and living completely on society's expenses for the rest of their lives unless we change things.

We don't need more unemployed people from abroad when we have over 200000 unemployed Finns already, with some of them not having had a permanent job since the previous recession. When you hear these figures instead of the refugee figures, do you think the True Finns maybe have a point in wanting to tighten the immigration policy and how it's applied?

John Paul said...

It is a sad time for Finland and its image in the world when that lot did so well in the general election last Sunday. Whatever the name or its English translation might suggest, they do not reflect the voice of good solid Finnish people. Finns by nature are open-minded, quite but genuine, rather than loud and superficial. While inhabitants a country such as Finland that is a big geographically isolated in Europe and one that has suffered under its neighbours in history can be a bit wary of strangers, they are not xenophobic or racist by nature. The so-called true Finns are full of rhetoric like "I am not racist, but ...." a clear sign of the worst racism. I am speaking as a western European who has been living a long long time in Finland and know what I am speaking about. As in some of the comments above it is clear that the percentage of people of other nationalities here is very low compared to other countries in Europe and the ironic fact is that this crowd come to prominence at a time when the country could really use and benefit from more foreigners coming from wherever. There is not threat, au contraire, so much to be gained for Finn also from having a more multi-cultural society, a larger workforce for a country where the population is aging ..and there sure is enough room for more. As for the European Union -the very best that Finland does and should continue to do is being good Europeans, just like with being good peace-keepers in the world the benefits come back many-fold. The perussuomalaiset could do real damage to the good world image of Finland, not to mention its economy, environment and overall quality of life through their short sighted, narrow-minded, isolationist policies. It is not a party of intelligent people, but appeals to the less-educated sector of society, with a degree of populism that can see comparisons in 20th century European history –the difference being that this is arising at a time when the country in question is really doing well, there is no big recession of threat, only a perceived one by the xenophiles. Help –I don’t want to have to move to Sweden, I much prefer the Finns –the way they really are!