Friday, 15 April 2011

Angry birds: Are 'True Finns' about to stage a revolution?

Those who have been tracing the recent rise of the European far right will have their eyes trained on Finland this Sunday, as that country holds a national election. According to recent opinion polls the Finnish nationalist party the "True Finns" could ride a wave of populist fervor to unprecedented electoral success on Sunday.

A Gallup poll last month put the True Finns in second place at 18.3% of the vote, just behind the ruling centre-right National Coalition Party. Led by MEP Timo Soini, the party has all the ingredients of today's far right in Europe: anti-immigration, anti-EU and pro-nationalism. They also display all the anomalies of today's far right: pro social welfare (but for ethnic Finns only), relatively pro gay rights, and working hard to project a respectable, PR-friendly image.

It is the same formula that has led to success for the Sweden Democrats in neighboring Sweden, the Danish People's Party in Denmark, the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, the National Front in France and the British National Party in the UK. And in the same way as all of these other countries, the main parties of Finland have been working to co-opt much of the far right's message in order to blunt their electoral impact.

What seems particularly worrying about this most recent nationalist success is that it is taking place in Finland, traditionally one of the most pluralistic and pro-EU member states. Finland's accession to the bloc in 1995 brought it huge economic gains following a difficult period after the collapse of the USSR, when the country had lost its biggest trading partner. Finland's status as the only Nordic country using the euro has also brought it success, particularly within the technology sector in which it has done so well over the past decade. Nokia has brought the country worldwide renown in the technology space, as has software developed in Finland such as Angry Birds.

But enthusiasm for the euro project is now under serious strain with the bailouts of struggling Greece, Portugal and Ireland. The main political parties have picked up on this. The centre-right government of Finland has become a leading voice in the push for eurozone austerity along with Austria, Netherlands and Germany - a group which some are calling the FANGs (who are sinking their teeth into the debt-ridden PIGS - Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain).

No matter how many parliament seats the True Finns manage to win on Sunday, the fact that they have been so successful means that the main parties of Finland who will eventually form a government are likely to take on some of their messages. This means Finland is likely headed for a turn toward nationalist politics and euroscepticism. The emergence of a Finland that starts to closer resemble its eurosceptic Scandinavian neighbors could have a big effect on the EU and particularly on the eurozone.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

TL;DR: You are wrong, you. The True Finns are populist but not as Hitleresque as you seem to believe.

You have a few misconceptions. Firstly while the True Finns might call for the elimination of Swedish as a national language, they do not call for ethnic Swedes to leave. Finland has a 5% Swedish speaking minority, but it is concentrated into a few coastal areas. This means that 80 percent of the population wouldn't need to speak a word of Swedish in their lives, if it was not for the privileged position of Swedish in Finland that dictates that Swedish be a mandatory subject at all levels of education. "Mandatory Swedish" is an inefficient government policy in that most Finns will never put their Swedish skills to use, and a failed one in that a sizeable portion of the people struggle to gain any skills in Swedish despite all the teaching.

The second objection to the status of Swedish is that as of now all civil servants are required to have a command of both Finnish and Swedish. The constitution of Finland already guarantees that government's services are available in both of the languages. Demand for service in Swedish in most of Finland is non-existent, and the constitutional guarantee would be more efficiently met by other means. What the requirement does is it gives the native Swedish speakers, of whom most are bilingual, better chances at securing a position of power in the government.

So why were these policies adopted in the first place? Before and during the Cold War hordes of Finns emigrated to Sweden, English wasn't yet a universal language, and the political climate was more polarized, which all amounted to making the perceived ties to Sweden of more importance. Opposition to the Swedish language policy became something to be summarily dismissed as anti-intellectualism and lost all political ground. The issue has then been ignored by the major parties as the majority of the electorate did not care enough ("cutting spending" in Finland gets an equally negative response as "increasing taxes" gets in more right-wing countries), until this election. Even now the political giants have not engaged in any real debate, but more of their candidates are now in opposition of mandatory Swedish.

Secondly the True Finns are not fundamentally racist. Despite your claims their proposed policies do not discriminate against ethnicity or religion. The opposition to immigration is based on a greedy, nationalist, isolationist populism, not on racism.

A faction of the True Finns does hate Islam with a passion. However they are not your aggressive neo-nazis, they are fat internet crackpots who fear the Sharia law is coming. They do not suggest that all Muslims be eradicated from Earth, but they are afraid that Islam will change the Finnish way of life drastically.

What I'm trying to say is that there's no devilish plot behind the True Finns, except for Mr Soini being a populist in a democracy. Their "racism" is going to manifest as making immigration more difficult and adopting a harder line on giving social security to non-citizens.

That they suggest women have more babies and less careers should be seen as a preemptive knee-jerk response to the counter-argument that Finland cannot comfortably sustain itself at the current birth rates. It's a populist party.

Anonymous said...

Blog 0 Comment 1

Kallisti said...

"as has software developed in Sweden such as Angry Birds." Finland?

My best friends grand mother refused to open the door for the ambulance people because they spoke Finnish to her. She lived in a Swedish speaking town managing her whole life without needing to or wanting to learn Finnish. Fewer and fewer Swedish speaking (and as true) Finns can interact with the government in their constitutionally guaranteed mother language. With interlingual marriage on the rise, almost unheard of until fairly recently, the kids of Swedish speakers are no longer learning as more than a quaint hobby language. The next generation will probably speed up the decline of native Swedish speakers in Finland.

Finland has been working hard since 1917 to be a part of the Nordic countries and not the Baltics or the Russian sphere, but the connection is unfortunately lessening and lessening.

Anonymous said...

Instead of rumours and fantasy stories, please look at facts, published in Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Finns

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the interpretations of the party program, such as "Swedish should be eliminated as a national language in Finland" etc. are completely incorrect. You would have understood this if you had read and translated section 5.1 of
http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/getfile.php?file=1536 into English, instead of using malicious 3rd-party sources.

Jonathan said...

the hoardes of "anonymous" perussuomalaiset internet trolls seem to be contradicting themselves here. Ending Swedish as a national language is plainly in the party's objectives, which is why all the other "anonymous" are defending it. When it comes to the True Finns, there is a lot of confusion about what they really stand for, even among their own supporters, because they don't stand for anything real - it's all nationalist populist bullshit. It's like the Tea Party in the US. And in both places the "anonymous" internet trolls are swallowing this populist nonsense unquestioningly.

Anonymous said...

@Jonathan
Did you miss the link given just before your post or why do you lie? The evidence is conclusive.