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The Finns Party (Finnish: Perussuomalaiset, Swedish: Sannfinländarna) is a Finnish[citation NOT needed] nationalist and right-wing populist party. It's currently part of the resurgence of popular euroskeptic and xenophobic right-wing parties that gained support as a result of the far-right anti-immigrant rhetoric of recent years.
The Finns party was founded in 1995 on the smoldering ruins of the Finnish Rural Party, the previous nationalist populist party in Finland, which would file for bankruptcy a week later. Like its predecessor, the Finns Party was not initially racist, but was rather speaking out against the old parties for the mysterious hidden masses. They were also from the get-go highly critical of the European Union, which Finland had joined on the year of their founding, as well as extremely conservative on social issues, at least by European standards.
Into the new millenium and back to 1930s
Throughout the 1990s, the Finns had only managed to get one member into the 200 seat parliament, their first Chairman, Raimo Vistbacka. That all changed in 2003, when the new Chairman Timo Soini recruited former boxer and professional wrestler Tony Halme to run for parliament in Helsinki. Halme was an unabashed racist and homophobe (had an SS-tattoo on his calf[note 1] and an "EXIT ONLY" tramp stamp — the guy really enjoyed expressing his bigotry through poorly thought out tattoos). This was the first sign that Soini was willing to accept openly racist candidates into the party. Due in large part to the celebrity status of Halme and the courting of racist voters, the Finns Party tripled their MP count in 2003 with both Soini and Halme going through, in addition to Vistbacka.
Halme didn't delay in causing controversy. In a radio interview right after the election he called the first female president of Finland a lesbian. He later apologized, but more was to come. Just three months after entering the parliament, Halme was arrested for accidentally firing an illegal firearm in his apartment while under the influence of alcohol and amphetamine. He would later be given a suspended sentence for it, but would spend much of his term on sick leave and didn't seek re-election in 2007.
Despite the absence of Halme the Finns got a further two seats in 2007, thanks to the endorsement of a popular ultra nationalistic blogger and linguistics professor Jussi Halla-aho, who also ran as a non-attached candidate for the Finns but failed to get himself elected. Much bigger electoral victory was ahead for them in 2011.
Election surge and rise to government
In 2008, followers of Jussi Halla-aho's blog had established an internet forum called "Homma", where they discussed the option of pushing Halla-aho and other anti-immigration hardliners in the 2011 parliamentary election. In 2009 a new party called Change 2011 was founded by active users of Hommaforum for this purpose. Timo Soini, worried that this new party would cannibalize the anti-immigration wing of the Finns, started to court Halla-aho to join and run for Finns Party instead. Halla-aho agreed to join and people at Hommaforum now started to push other acceptable candidates in various constituencies.
In July 2010 a political manifesto called Aloof Election Manifesto (Finnish Nuiva Vaalimanifesti), which had been signed by Halla-aho and 12 other parliamentary election candidates from the Finns Party, was released. The manifesto railed against humanitarian immigration (especially from Africa and the Middle-East), Multiculturalism and Development aid. In February 2011, the Finns Party released an official manifesto, which adopted much of the anti-immigration stances of the Aloof Election Manifesto, while adding anti-EU sentiments. Two months later they also took a firm stand against modern and postmodern art, demanding that only National Romantic art should receive government support.
The 2011 Parliamentary election was a giant victory for the Finns party. They increased their popular vote percentage by 15%, with every other parliamentary party losing voters from 2007 and jumped from 5 to 39 MPs, including 6 signatories of the Aloof Manifesto. This landed them on third place behind the Neoliberal National Coalition Party and the Social Democratic Party. Besides the rising anti-immigration sentiment in Finland, the Finns benefited from Greece's ongoing debt crisis, as a large portion of the Finnish electorate was opposed to bailing out bankrupt European economies and the Finns Party was the only party categorically opposed to it, as well as other EU bailouts.
This turned against them though, since now it was up to the highly pro-EU National Coalition to try and form a government coalition. When the other parliamentary parties sidelined the Finns in the Portugal bailout vote, they dropped out of government negotiations. Eventually National Coalition, Social Democrats, Left Alliance, Green League, Swedish People's Party and Christian Democrats formed a rainbow coalition,[note 2] leaving the Finns in opposition for the next four years, where they got to take pot shots at the highly dysfunctional six-party government.
Finns Party MP James Hirvisaari was expelled from the party in October 2013 after he hosted the noted far-right figure Seppo Lehto at the Parliament House and photographed him making a Roman salute, which he then shared on social media. Hirvisaari later joined the Change 2011 party, becoming its first (and to-date only) MP.
In the 2015 elections the Finns Party rose to 2nd place in the parliament, despite losing one seat, due to the increasingly right-wing Centre Party surging to the top, largely at the expense of National Coalition and Social Democrats. Centre Party,[note 3] Finns Party and National Coalition ended up forming what was probably the most reactionary and right-wing government Finland has had since the 1930s.[note 4] In the government, the Finns party was more than happy to support cuts in education, public daycare and social security as well as attempts to partially privatize Finland's social and health care system (which turned out to be unconstitutional), as long as they got to make life more difficult for refugees and foreigners in general. With the voters seeing their own benefits getting slashed as well, and not being able to blame it on the immigrants[note 5] and development aid, the Finns Party support unsurprisingly plummeted.
Far right takeover and party split
In March 2017, after leading the Finns for 20 years, Timo Soini declared that he wouldn't seek re-election as party chair in next summer's party conference. The party leadership contest quickly became a two-horse race between Jussi Halla-aho and Soinis protege Sampo Terho. Despite Halla-aho being considered the dangerously racist extremist and Terho seen as the more moderate option, there wasn't truly much difference in their misanthropic views. Nevertheless, Halla-aho was seen as the more toxic of the two due to his high profile racist comments, one of which had even led to him being convicted of racial incitement.
Already in 2016, supporters of Halla-aho had started to plan a hardliner takeover of the Finns Party at Hommaforum. Later a private Facebook group called Halla-aho puheenjohtajaksi (English: Halla-aho for a chairperson) was established that only verified supporters of Halla-aho, who were also registered Finns Party members, were let in. Halla-aho and his supporters covered travel and accommodation expenses for the group members so they could attend and vote in the June party conference.
On 10 June 2017, Halla-aho beat Terho by a 949 to 629 margin. In his victory speech, Halla-aho endorsed specific hardliner candidates for each of the vice chairmanships[note 6] and all of the three vice chairmanships went to those specific candidates.
The following day the leaders of both the Centre Party and the National Coalition made it clear that they wouldn't be able to continue in the same government with Halla-aho leading the Finns Party. The sitting President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, also uncharacteristically expressed concern about the Finns Party leadership choices. On Monday, as Prime Minister Sipilä was on his way to the President's summer residence to hand over his government's resignation, 20 Finns Party MPs (including Soini, Terho and all other Finns Party ministers) announced that they were leaving the party and starting a new parliamentary group called New Alternative. Sipilä made a literal u-turn on the highway and declared that the government would continue with the minute majority that New Alternative provided them. Halla-aho and the remainder of the Finns were left to brood in opposition once again.
After being dropped from the government, the Finns lost no time in starting to oppose the austerity policies they had voted for only days earlier. Unfortunately the voters' political memory tends to be rather short, so the Finns Party started to get up again in the polls, while the New Alternative (now rebranded as Blue Reform) sank into electoral oblivion. A year later Halla-aho was back to blaming immigrants and refugees for all of Finland's problems and even endorsed strict austerity and tax cuts, again as a miracle cure for budget deficits. None of that managed to hurt the party and in the 2019 elections they retained the second place, just 0.2% behind the re-emerging Social Democrats. Despite their electoral success, no-one was willing to work with the Finns Party any more and they were left in opposition once again, with the left wing and centrist parties forming probably the most progressive government in Finland since the early 1980s. Seems like justice after four years of Sipilä government. Initially they performed rather well in polls as an opposition party, but the Covid-19 outbreak and the mostly competent handling of it by a centre left government managed to rekindle Finnish people's love of Social Democracy.
Following disappointing municipal election results in 2021, Halla-aho stated that he wouldn't seek re-election as a party chair. In August 2021 they elected Riikka Purra, yet another unapologetic racist, as their new leader. Weak props on choosing a woman as a party leader though, leaving the neoliberal National Coalition as the only current parliamentary party in Finland to never have a female party leader.
Trouble with the kids
In February 2020 Toni Jalonen, the vice chair of the Finns Party youth organization, stated in an ethno-nationalist Etnofutur event in Tallinn that he was "a nationalist, a traditionalist and a fascist". The "fascist" part sparked a national outrage and lead to the Ministry of Education and Culture cutting funding for the Finns Party youth organization. Jalonen was expelled from the organization, but this did not stop the criticism and eventually the Finns Party leadership set an ultimatum for the youth wing. They would have to declare that they'd follow and respect the principles of rule of law, or they'd be expelled from the party. In a clear vote they rejected the rules change and were promptly fired by their parent party.
The (Un-)Truth Excites
The Finns Party think tank Suomen Perusta, specialising in "immigration/multiculturalism, European integration and economics" and led by Marko Hamilo, published the 420-page book Totuus kiihottaa ("The Truth Excites/Arouses") in June 2020. The book was authored by Dr Jukka Sakari Hankamäki, a social psychologist and failed parliamentary candidate in the 2019 election. It was subtitled "a philosophical study of the information and truth crisis of the left-wing populist mainstream media" and contained sections dealing with womens' sexual independence, immigration and alleged intent of "getting back at" Finnish society by forming relationships and/or mating with non-Finnish men. In addition to the much publicized misogynist comments, the book lashed at several entities, such as the national broadcaster Yle, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the non-fiction print house Vastapaino, Wikipedia and the European Court of Human Rights. Hankamäki also failed to adhere to basic scientific method, with Hankamäki writing that the material he used had been gathered by himself "in the field" with no peer review or even criticism of self whatsoever.[note 7]
The book was pulled two days after its publication after coming under heavy fire for the views portrayed in it. Hankamäki himself defended his work, insisting that the contents of the book were scientifically sound and met proper academic criteria.
Chairman Halla-aho attempted to deflect criticism by calling the publishing of the book "a mistake" and an example of failed quality control, and the party distanced itself from Suomen Perusta. Deputy chairman Riikka Purra said that she found the views on women portrayed in the book "pure dirt". An annual 120 000 euro state grant from the Ministry of Science and Culture had been awarded to Suomen Perusta, of which they have since been asked to refund an amount of 10 000 euros due to it being paid to Hankamäki instead of being used in accordance with guidelines of the grant, which state that it should be used for advancing equality. Hamilo argued that the refund request has no legal basis, since the anti-discrimination laws cited by the Ministry only apply to actions and behavior between parties, not to voicing opinions.
Assault and attempted murder of Pekka Kataja
On Friday 17 July 2020 between 09 and 10 AM, Pekka Kataja, a municipal councillor and an aide to the Finns Party MP Jouni Kotiaho, was assaulted at his home in Jämsä by perpetrators unknown. The two culprits gained access to his home by posing as deliverymen with material from the local party headquarters. After opening the door, he was beaten with a hammer or similar object and kicked repeatedly. The culprits disappeared during the time he was unconscious. Kataja was diagnosed with a skull fracture, a cerebral haemorrhage, three broken ribs and a broken thumb.
Both Kataja and the leadership of the party saw it likely that the attack was politically motivated. He had been a vocal critic of immigration and refugees, but also of far right and was involved in expelling members of the extreme right from the Finns Party in Central Finland, which had earned him some notoriety in those circles. Kataja initially said to a familiar journalist that the attackers were "arab looking" men, but later recanted and apologized. He also expressed his new belief that the attackers were of the far right. The investigation was turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) on 21 July as an attempted murder.
Two men were initially arrested as part of the investigation in September 2020. The first was revealed to be Teemu Torssonen, a former Finns Party and later independent councillor from Jyväskylä, whom Kataja had previously prevented from running for the Finnish Parliament in the 2019 election and who was expelled from the party in May 2020. The second suspect was reported to have connections multiple extreme right groups, including Soldiers of Odin and the banned Finnish branch of the neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement. However, he was cleared early in the investigation and released in October 2020. Torssonen was also cleared as the conclusion of the police investigation in February 2021, as there was not enough evidence of his direct involvement with the attempted murder. Instead, a so far unnamed 42-year-old male was charged for the murder. According to police reports, "the suspect is a friend and political supporter of Torssonen" and the motivation is related to "Katajas political activities" This would make it the most serious high profile case of political violence in Finland since Lapua Movement of 1920s and 1930s.
There was still circumstantial evidence about the involvement of Torssonen, including his fingerprint, which was found in the package the attacker(s) used to get in Katajas apartment. However, it was clear that Torssonen could not personally have been at Kataja's apartment at the time and there was not enough evidence to for conspiracy charges.
Come out, ye black and
For some, even the reworked Finns Party of Halla-aho just isn't enough, and at one point or other the party will also get enough of them, throwing them out. What better option than to set up your own party after that? Former Finns Party youth organization members Tuukka Kuru and Olavi Saarelainen, along with former Finns Party councillor Terhi Kiemunki, were the most notable leaders of Sinimusta liike ("Blue-Black Movement"; the youth organization of the Patriotic People's Movement went by the same name pre-WWII) when it was unveiled in early 2021. The movement manifesto includes:
- prohibiting "slander of Finnishness"
- prohibiting pornography
- limiting access to contraceptives and abortion
- compiling a register of residents with foreign background, with their ethnicity, language and religion listed
- reconsidering all residence permits granted after 1990
- focus on the preservation of nature
The new prospective party also has members associated with the Finnish Resistance Movement and the Soldiers of Odin. However, the question of whether or not it can in fact be registered as a political party in the first place is up in the air. As of 12 April 2021, the application for official registration was declined, owing to issues with the movement's objectives of curtailing free speech and equality. The movement has requested clarification on objectionable content for possible amendments, so they might yet succeed.
Aping the methods previously employed by Alternative for Germany, some Finns Party members have campaigned for Finnish youth to report "unjust evaluations of", "fear-mongering" and "incitement of hatred against" Finns Party in schools to the party itself. The Finnish National Agency for Education investigated the matter in 2018 and found no evidence of the Finns Party being attacked in education.
The issue reached a boiling point in January 2021, with both the party youth organization and its MP Jani Mäkelä raising the issue, while chairman Halla-aho echoed the same sentiments a few days later. The Trade Union of Education in Finland then announced that it would not tolerate its members being attacked for political reasons. The party later issued a statement that the purposes of its campaign had been misrepresented in the media, and that it was not compiling any kind of register of schools or people.
The Finns Party initially didn't have an official English name and referred to themselves as the True Finns in English interviews. The unofficial name received criticism however, because the Finnish name Perussuomalaiset translates more correctly as Basic Finns or Fundamental Finns.[note 8] They weren't particularly happy about it themselves either, so in 2011 the party congress decided to adopt the official English name of Finns Party. This caused its own uproar in the rest of the Finnish population, as it took some gall to claim the whole nationality to be under your party's wing. The Finns party's response was basically, "It's our party, we can call it what we please".[note 9]
- Weirdly he threatened to sue Finnish singer Maija Vilkkumaa for calling him a Nazi
- A term which must have pissed the Christian Democrats off.
- Now under the leadership of Laestadian multimillionaire Juha Sipilä
- The last government that managed to be more reactionary than Sipiläs was literally set up to keep the "godless Marxists" out of power.
- Although with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean going on, they certainly tried to.
- Which was unprecedented, as Soini and Vistbacka had never taken sides in the vice chairs' elections.
- For the nerds interested in numbers, the word vihervasemmisto ("green-left") can be found 233 times in the book, the words feminismi or feministi ("feminism" and "feminist") 251 times, kommunismi ("communism") 80 times and monikulttuurisuus ("multiculturalism") or its variants approximately 160 times.
- Seeing as being Finnish is essentially a religion to them, they might as well be called Fundamentalist Finns
- The Republican Party in US has adopted a more advanced version of this policy
- Ludvig Borga – The Surreal, Shocking Life of Tony Halme Pro Wrestling Stories
- Official calls Finnish president a lesbian Advocate 20 March 2003
- Tony Halmeen epäillään ampuneen asunnossaan Helsingin Sanomat 4 July 2003
- Suspended Sentence for MP Tony Halme Yle Uutiset 29 January 2004
- Sokoksen kuppilasta koko Suomen äänikuninkaaksi - Tällainen oli Jussi Halla-ahon tie politiikan huipulle Iltalehti 14 April 2019
- True Finns’ immigration manifesto is full of holes and question marks Migrant Tales 25 July 2010
- The Aloof Election Manifesto: Radical Political Right in Finland in the Borderlines of Neoliberalism and Cultural Nativism Nordic Journal of Migration Research 1 June 2016
- True Finns Publish Election Manifesto Yle Uutiset 25 February 2011
- True Finns want to cut the support for modern art completely. They want to move the cultural allowances to support art that aims to strengthen the national identity. Finland’s other big parties think this is impossible – only in totalitarian societies the politicians have taken the right to decide what art can be like. Discuss. Unstruck 26 April 2011
- True Finns the biggest winner in the elections. Coalition Party the largest party in the Parliamentary elections 2011 Statistics Finland 29 April 2011
- True Finns see Portugal bailout opposition growing Reuters 20 April 2011
- Parties bypass True Finns to agree support for Portuguese bailout thejournal.ie 11 May 2011
- True Finns drop out of gov't talks -party leader Reuters 12 May 2011
- James Hirvisaari expelled from True Finns, Finland Times, 5 October 2013
- Local party group sends Finns Party MP packing, Yle, 10 October 2013
- Finland, We Hardly Knew Ye Jacobin 16 August 2017
- See the Wikipedia article on Kallio IV Cabinet.
- Students across Finland protest cuts to vocational education Yle Uutiset 22 August 2016
- Government cuts children’s daycare rights Yle Uutiset 3 April 2014
- Income support cuts affect 11,000 in Finland Yle Uutiset 1 October 2018
- Looming social welfare and healthcare reforms in Finland Public Services Internationl 15 March 2017
- Government sent back to the drawing board on health and social care reform Yle Uutiset 29 June 2017
- Stricter requirements for family reunification coming: must speak Finnish, have a good job and a home Yle Uutiset 2 December 2015
- Gov’t suggests drastic changes to immigration policy, experts say proposals unconstitutional Yle Uutiset 12 September 2015
- Foreign students face tuition fees in Finland Yle Uutiset 15 December 2015
- Finland slashes development aid by 43% amid fears others may follow The Guardian 11 June 2015
- Yle poll suggests continued drop in Finns Party support Yle Uutiset 10 August 2016
- Soini announces he will not continue at Finns Party helm Yle Uutiset 5 March 2017
- Halla-aho challenges Terho for Finns Party leadership Helsinki Times 14 March 2017
- Is there such a thing as a “new” and “old” Perussuomalaiset party? Migrant Tales 13 June 2017
- How Sampo Terho’s essay in 2007 is still the norm but in a different context to fuel fear and racism of migrants and minorities Migrant Tales 19 March 2017
- Supreme Court orders Halla-aho to pay for hate speech Yle Uutiset 8 June 2012
- Social Media and the Emergence, Establishment and Transformation of the Right-Wing Populist Finns Party Published in Populism (retrieved from HELDA, the Digital Repository of the University of Helsinki) 2020
- Oliko Timo Soini Juudas? Näin historiallisten tapahtumien vyöry eteni kulisseissa – ja tämän tuomion suomalaiset antavat Soinin toiminnasta Helsingin Sanomat 18 June 2017
- New leader Halla-aho to push Finns Party in nationalistic, Eurosceptic direction Yle Uutiset 11 June 2017
- Finnish govt implodes: Centre, NCP say deal off with Finns Party Yle Uutiset 12 June 2017
- Niinistö: Finns Party is pretty much a new party after leadership re-shuffle Helsinki Times 12 June 2017
- Split in Finn natives - Finland’s populist party has cracked in two The Economist 14 June 2017
- True Finns split holds lesson for Europe’s populists Financial Times 15 June 2017
- Äläkkä eduskunnan kyselytunnista: ”Kovimman ilmaveivin suoritti Toimi Kankaanniemi” Uusi Suomi 15 June 2017
- Finns Party seeks to "take care of only Finnish citizens" Yle Uutiset 1 September 2018
- Social Democrats emerges narrowly as largest party in Finnish Parliament Helsinki Times 15 April 2019
- Finland's new government: SDP, Centre dominate ministerial portfolios Yle Uutiset 3 June 2019
- Yle poll: SDP gets boost due to handling of coronavirus crisis, researcher says Yle Uutiset 4 June 2020
- Riikka Purra and her PS cronies want to make discrimination and racism legal by Enrique Tessieri, Migrant Tales, 1 September 2021
- Riikka Purra elected Finns Party leader, Yle, 14 August 2021
- HELSINKI: F-word provokes outrage Euractiv 28 Feb 2020
- Ministry to consider funding implications of Finns Party Youth ‘fascist’ video News Now Finland 24 February 2020
- True Finns youth leader expelled for declaring himself 'fascist' Foreigner 24 February 2020
- Finns Party to sack youth wing's vice chair for declaring himself a fascist Yle Uutiset 24 February 2020
- Finns Party youth reject rule change after fascist scandal Yle Uutiset 29 February 2020
- Finns Party severs ties with youth organisation over rules disagreement Helsinki Times 2 March 2020
- Cesar Calvar: Think-tank says Finnish women mate with foreigners to "take revenge" on society, Foreigner, 10 June 2020
- Thursday's papers: Finns Party in sexist book storm, citizen's initiative on masks and STD spike, Yle, 11 June 2020
- Pasi Kivioja: Kohupamfletti on raskasta luettavaa – vilisee virheitä, asiantuntemattomia väitteitä ja kommunisteja, Suomen Kuvalehti, 18 June 2020 (in Finnish)
- Finns Party think tank must repay state support due to misogynist book, Yle, 8 September 2020
- Finns Party think tank appeals ministry decision to claw back €10k in funding over misogynist book, Yle, 24 September
- Police probe attack on Finns Party aide as attempted manslaughter, Yle 18 July 2020
- KRP takes over investigation into assault of Finns Party campaign manager, Helsinki Times, 22 July 2020
- Finns Party aide speculates far-right behind assault, Yle, 20 July 2020
- ”Lääkärit ihmettelevät selviytymistäni”, perussuomalaisten pahoinpidellyn eduskunta-avustajan päähän ommeltiin 150 tikkiä – Pekka Kataja epäilee pahoinpitelijäkseen äärioikeistoa, Helsingin Sanomat, 21 July 2020 (in Finnish)
- Perussuomalaisten Pekka Katajan raakaa pahoinpitelyä tutkitaan nyt murhan yrityksenä, Ilta-Sanomat, 21 July 2020 (in Finnish)
- Two remanded into custody over attack on Finns Party aide, Yle 11 September 2020
- Pekka Kataja’s attackers are two far-right activists. Have the Finnish authorities awoken to the threat of such groups?, Migrant Tales, 11 September 2020
- Jyväskylä councillor cleared of charges in Finns Party aide attack Yle, February 9, 2021
- Yhdelle syyte Pekka Katajaan kohdistuneesta murhan yrityksestä, Teemu Torssoselle ei syytettä – Torssosen hallusta löytyi hahmotelmia rikollisjärjestöstä ja sissiarmeijasta, Helsingin Sanomat, February 9, 2021 (in Finnish)
- Etnisesti yhtenäistä Suomea ajava Sinimusta liike on vielä matkan päässä puoluerekisteristä, Yle Uutiset, 3 February 2021 (in Finnish)
- Sysimusta Liike, Apu, 31 January 2021 (in Finnish)
- Finns Party splinter group dons colours of 1940s fascists, Yle, 13 January 2021
- Etnisesti yhtenäistä Suomea ajavan Sinimustan liikkeen puoluehakemus palautui korjattavaksi, MTVuutiset.fi, 12 April 2021 (in Finnish)
- Opettaja vastaa persujen hyökkäykseen: Näpit irti kouluopetuksesta, Kansan Uutiset, 23 January 2021 (in Finnish)
- Perussuomalaisten kampanja kerää kokemuksia kouluopetuksen puolueellisuudesta – puolue on ennenkin epäillyt opetuksen sisältöjä, Ilkka-Pohjalainen, 13 January 2021 (in Finnish)