Arkadiy (skandinavia) wrote,

Arkady Ryabichenko: The True Finns and EU

The contemporary Finnish political landscape was determined by the 2012 presidential elections. Sauli Niinisto became a new President of Finland; Niinisto is a representative of the right-center party “The National Coalition” which was the winner at the parliamentary elections in 2011. Niinisto won over Pekka Haavisto from the“Green” party (1).

The victory of Niinisto was persuasive but Timo Soini, the leader of the right-populist nationalistic party “The True Finns” (”Perussuomalaiset” in Finnish) also became one of the “lucky men” of the elections. Soini received 9,4% of the voices and left the first elections tour on January 24, 2012, having taken the 4th place (2). It was a very serious result comparing to the result of the presidential elections in 2006 (3,4%). The main sensation of the parliamentary elections which took place a year earlier was a grandiose success of “The True Finns”. The nationalistic party got 19,1% of the electorate. The Centre Party's Deputy Chairman Timo Kaunisto said that the elections results were a catastrophe. He noted that the main reason of his party fiasco was the increased dissatisfaction about the European Union in Finland (6).

Who are “The True Finns” and why are they having such big success right now? The party was founded in 1995. Timo Soini came after his predecessor Raimo Vistbaka in 1997. The foes from journalists say ironically that Soini looks like a bear and that he has extravagant glasses. However “the bear” Soini is a Master of Political Science. He was a Deputy Chairman of a populist party “The Agrarian Party of Finland” in 1989-1992 and its secretary in 1992-1995. Soini also participated in the European Parliament work as a member in 2009-2011 (7).

In the parliamentary elections of 2003 “Perussuomalaiset” got 1,3% of the voices. But in 2007 the result was 4,1% and in the municipal elections in 2008 - 5,4%. The parliament elections in 2011 became a new stage in “The True Finns” history.

The Swedish newspaper “Aftonbladet” notes the similarity between “The Swedish Democrats” in Sweden and the finnish nationalists. “The True Finns” achievement in Finland – is the last demonstration of existence of a grown right-populist group in Europe” – writes the newspaper(9).

From the very beginning ”Perussuomalaiset” characterized its ideology as “Christian-Social” world view (10), in fact, as well as ”The Swedish Democrats” in Sweden and ”The Danish People Party” in Denmark; this party is a small party of a new type which combines the features of both an ethnocratic party and a “party of one question”.

Certainly, “The True Finnish” considers the immigration regulations to be one of the most important themes, but now the party attracts the Finnish as a Eurosceptic in the first place. On the background of the crisis Euroscepticism has been reviving in Finland. “Perussuomalaiset” regards the future of EU only as a union of the independent states. The party does not welcome intensification of integration in defense, monetary and welfare questions (12).

New nationalistic parties of North Europe deliberately want to overcome traditional negative nationalist image.

They have moderated their requirements and achieved some respectability which can help to overcome that marginal image and enter the parliament. “The Swedish Democrats” is a colorful example; having worked a lot on their image they entered the Swedish Riksdag in the last election of 2010. Their scepsis about European project and economical integration of Sweden in the EMU is declared in the party program: “We say “no” to the Swedish membership in the Economic and Monetary Union”. The party states themselves as the EU opponent and says that it wants ” to return the authority from the Brussels to the Swedish people”.

The researchers note that in a way Nordic election tradition limits possibilities of small parties. Therefore, a new party in the parliament is a very important event here. The European parties of a new type focus their attention on different questions if to compare with traditional parties. This is the reason why the researchers have difficulty to locate ”Perussuomalaiset” on the political scale. Obviously “The True Finnish” are closer to the centrist parties but some authors attach them to the left (wing).

Those social groups which support parties like “The Swedish Democrats” and “The Danish People Party” generally are socially vulnerable. Some sociologists from Gothenburg University note that another leading reason to support that type of parties is the fear of state marginalization during the globalization process (13).

Swedish researcher Soren Holmberg states that the electorate of these new right-populist parties is constituted of people who “lose” in the globalization process. “The True Finnish” declares that its aim is to support such “lost” social groups as pensioners, unemployed, students and workers of the forest sector (14).

Holmber names a number of reasons for the new right-populists parties success. In the first place it is the weakening of the traditional parties’ identity and falling interest to politics among people. In the second place it is the politicization of new issues (15).

Helsinki. Photo:

“The True Finns” is famous for its views on the immigration issue. In the closer look the ”Perussuomalaiset” ideas are not that radical, in a way they follow “The Danish People Party”. Immigrants are required to accept Finnish social and legal norms and then Finnish society will accept theirs - the party program states (16). The authors of the program contrast “usual immigrants” with migrant workers. Every new immigrant must prepare “an adaptation plan” where learning of the Finnish language is an important element. Any new resident of Suomi must learn Finnish within the term of three years. “The citizenship must be an award” “The True Finns” say.
“The True Finns” are convinced opponents of NATO. The Party is against centralization of the economic policy, the Pan-European Army and EU expansion and deepening (17). "The party does not approve the idea to solve the developing countries problems by means of a “Finnish purse” (18).”Perussuomalaiset” is also against the developing of the EU agriculture in the prejudice of the Finnish farming.

What is the “The True Finns” attitude to the Russia? The Party does not support the Finnish membership in NATO but approves some moderate increase of the military purposes appropriations. Finland must not be involved in the armaments race conjugated with the UN Security Council weakening role (19). Russian Army fighting efficiency does not cause dread on the Finnish populists.

The attitude to Russia is a very significant marker for the Finnish politicians. ”Perussuomalaiset” showed populism in the election campaign in 2012 towards the traditional ”Karelian Issue”. In the interview to the "Karjalan kuvalehti” magazine Timo Soini was the only candidate for presidency who supported the restitution, but with an important condition – “if it is carried out according to the agreements concluded with the Russian side”.
Soini also said that “membership in the EU undermines the sovereignty of Finland” (20). Thereby Timo Soini demonstrated that his party sees the enemy in the Brussels and not in the East.

Popularity of the parties like “The True Finns” is growing in the North Europe because of the number of reasons. “The Cartoons scandal” in 2005 and the strengthening of the migration legislation in Denmark and stagnation of the migration legislation in other countries – these are few that rest on the surface. The terrorist attack in Stockholm on December 11, 2010, was a significant event. For all that, discarded the controversy, Nordic ”old parties” unite against “nationalist newcomers”.

There has passed just more than one year after the “The True Finnish” sensational success on the parliamentary elections but the popularity of the Party is still growing. It is a serious sign which is an eloquent testimony about this new Nordic trend. The finnish authorities must initiate measures which may change perception of the EU by those social groups who share the concerns of the “True Finns” about preservation of national identity and welfare in the process of deepening European integration.

[List of Sources]List of Sources

(1) Sauli Niinistö är Finlands tolfte president // Svenska YLE. 05.02.2012. URL:
(2) Svenska Yle. [Hela landet - stödet för kandidaterna]. URL:
(3) Österbottens Tidning. [Pirrig valkväll i sikte]. URL:
(4) Svenska Yle. [Urpilainen: Ingen skam med silver]. URL:
(5) Åbo Underrättelser. [Finland har ny regering]. URL:
(6) Svenska Yle. [Timo Kalmisto: Resultatet katastrofalt]. URL:
(7) CV. Timo Soini // Suomen Soini presidentiksi. URL:
(8) Svenska Yle. [Sannfinländarnas bastion: Kihniö]. URL:
(9) Aftonbladet. 21.04.2011 [Sä lika är Sannfinländarna ocn Sverigedemokraterna]. URL:
(10) Oikeutta kansalle. Perussuomalainen puolueen yleisohjelma. Olen Persuuomalainen. Hyväksytty l. Puoluekokouksessa 26.11.1995. Kokkola // PerusS. URL:
(11) Fitting for the finns - the True Finns' election programme for the parliamentary election 2011 / Summary. P.2. URL:
(12) Oikeutta kansalle. Perussuomalainen puolueen yleisohjelma. Olen Persuuomalainen. Hyväksytty l. Puoluekokouksessa 26.11.1995. Kokkola // PerusS. URL:
(13) Suomalaiselle sopivin. Perussuomalaiset r.p:n eduskuntavaaliohjelma 2011. S.43. 25.2.2011. URL:
(14) Oikeutta kansalle.
(15) Holmberg S. Sverigedemokrater - vilka är dom och vad vill dom? // Det nya Sverige. Trettiosju kapitel om politik, medier och samhälle. SOM-undersökning 2006. SOM-rapport nr 41. S. 162-163.
(16) Oikeutta kansalle.
(17) Perussuomalaisten eurovaaliohjelma 1999: Perussuomalainen kriittisenä euroopassa. URL:
(18) Suomalaiselle sopivin. S.47-51
(19) Suomalaiselle sopivin. S.37-38
(20) Presidenttiehdokkaiden mielipiteet sotasyyllisyydestä ja palautuksesta // Karjalan kuvalehti. No 08/ Joulukuu 2011. S.4-7.

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Tags: english, finland, the true finns, Истинные финны, Тимо Соини, Финляндия, популизм
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Ольга Васильевна Чернышева - ведущий научный сотрудник-консультант Центра Северной Европы и Балтии Института всеобщей истории РАН, доктор исторических наук и заслуженный учёный, при непосредственном участии которого происходило становление и развитие отечественной скандинавистики - науки об…
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