More about populism

June was a month full of happenings. I apologize for talking about Finnish politics again, but the phenomenon of the True Finns will have a great impact on European politics. In the May issue, I wrote about the earthquake victory of the Finnish nationalist populist party the True Finns (19% of the vote) and their charismatic leader Timo Soini, a jovial, funny man with a rhetoric that everybody understands.

A Roman Catholic, admirer of Ireland and a devote fan of the Millwall FC football team, Mr Soini is no typical representative of the Finns. I also said that Soini has many good ideas, but that quite a lot of other members of his party have views that are ‘a bit scary’. Although the European right-wing populists share the common features of anti-elitism and anti-immigration, it is impossible to place them under one ideology. As in the case of True Finns, their populist agenda include right-wing elements, but also leftist ideas such as opposition against uneven distribution of wealth. Unfortunately the unruly elements of the True Finns continue airing their antagonistic views on immigrants and minorities, among them the 5% minority of Swedish-speaking Finns. Unless severe party discipline is implemented, the True Finns risk a decline in popularity.

Right in time before Midsummer celebrations, Finland finally got a new government, two months after the election. The True Finns chose opposition, after two attempts to find a way to join government. Both times it stranded on their strict veto to European Union bailout policy. The weeks of negotiations were tough, not only for the negotiators, but for the Finnish people and the press as well. The journalists gathered outside the Assembly House every day in hope of getting some comments on the result, but the presumptive government members kept their mouths shut. The only comments we could read in the morning papers were about the facial expressions and the body language of the participants, and wild speculations about the possible outcome.

Now we know that the new government is a so-called ‘sixpack’ or rainbow coalition consisting of the right wing National Coalition Party, the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, the right wing/liberal Swedish People’s Party, (representing the Swedish-speaking minority) the Greens and the Christian Democrats. The average age of the government members is below 50, although three of the ministers are over 60, so we will be ruled by a pack of enthusiastic youngsters and three veterans. Of the 19 ministers ten are male and nine female. With the True Finns and the Centre party in opposition, the task ahead will not be easy.

The victory of the True Finns has had its impact in Sweden: According to figures published on June 17th, by the Swedish polling firm Skop, support for the anti-immigrant Sweden democrats increased to 6,5 % , making them Sweden’s fourth largest political party .
Enough about politics! I wish all our friends a fantastic holiday season with a maximum of sunshine and a minimum of conflicts.

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