Once upon a time in Scandinavia

scandinaviaWill Finland join the ‘club’ of the European countries which include a populist party in their government?

A few days more and we will have the answer.

For sure, something changed in Scandinavia after the results of the Swedish Democrats in September 2014 and the Finnish elections last week. Moreover, in 2014 the Danish People’s Party received 26,6% of the votes for the European Parliament, more than any other Danish party, and the Progress Party in Norway became for the first time part of the government in 2013, even if it obtained better results in previous elections.

wood gas carJuha Sipilä, 54-years-old millionaire with a passion for wood gas cars and leader of the Centre Party, won the elections in Finland and has now a difficult task to face: rescuing the country from economic recession and find a collocation for Finland within the European Union. Nevertheless, he cannot do that alone and he is likely to need coalition support from the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration and populist ‘Finns Party’ (‘True Finns’ until 2011, originally ‘Finnish Rural Party’).

The Centre Party obtained 49 seats out of 200 (21,2% of the votes), while the centre-right National Coalition leaded by the PM Alexander Stubb won 37 seats (18,2%) and 34 seats went to the Social Democrats (16,5%). All the coalition scenarios are open and the Finns Party – with its 38 seats – could be part of the government for the first time in its history. The leader Timo Soini already claimed that he wants to become foreign Minister and renegotiate the EU-membership of the country. The Centre Party is internally divided about the process of European integration, and this could lead to unexpected consequences. There is also an interesting religious cleavage, since Sipilä is member of a conservative Lutheran revival movement (Word of Peace) while Soini is a catholic in a protestant country.

Timo Soni - Leader of Finns Party

Timo Soni – Leader of Finns Party

Apart from the interesting figure of Sipilä, it is undeniable that the juiciest aspect of the results of the elections is the role that the Finns Party will play in the process of coalition formation. They refused to join the government in 2011 because they did not support further Greek bailouts, but probably the climate is now changed about this topic. Another element of interest is their mélange of positions combining left-wing economic policies, conservative social values, socio-cultural authoritarianism, and ethnic nationalism[1]. Since June 2014, the Finns Party joined the ‘European Conservatives and Reformists Group’ in the European Parliament, together with parties ‘Law and Justice’ from Poland, ‘Alternative for Germany’, the ‘New Flemish Alliance’ from Belgium and the ‘Danish People’s Party’, forming a mixed group united by Euroscepticism and conservative values.

The Finns’ eclectic political orientation is the result of their internally variegated composition: the include groupings ‘assimilated’ from previous agrarian parties, those associated with the conuterjihadist ‘Homma Forum blog’, in addition to the contacts with the nationalist and patriotic association ‘Suomen Sisu’ (several Finns’ MPs are member of the group).

It is worth to remember that, beside the numerous scandals concerning racist and inflammatory declarations, the True Finns were extensively mentioned in the 1500 pages manifesto that Anders Breivik wrote before killing 77 people in 2011. In particular, Breivik quoted and agreed with Jussi Halla-aho, Finns’ MP, and his conspiracy theory about a symbiosis between the European left and Muslim immigrants. The party always refused any link with the far-right terrorist who, however, considered them as one of the ‘indigenous European resistance organizations’.euros

Scandinavia is probably not any longer a heaven of social welfare and prosperity, but there are several shades of grey between the stereotypical image of the region and the possible outcome of the political turmoil which is re-shaping that image.

[1] David Arter, ‘The Breakthrough of Another West European Populist Radical Right Party? The Case of the True Finns’

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