Guest blogger, Vasarahammer, submits the following report to the Tundra Tabloids on the current Finnish political situation, which sees its domestic politics as a huge subject of interest for the international media, in wake of the rise of the EU skeptical, True Finns, as Finland’s third largest party.
As the true winners in the recent parliamentary elections where they won 19.0% of the vote, the True Finns party looks to upset the EU’s apple cart where the continued bailout of economically challenged member states is concerned, and domestically, the continued elevated status of Swedish speakers in Finland and the enforced teaching of Swedish in school in an official bilingual state.
Enter, professor Jan Sundberg, hand picked by the Finnish Foreign Minister, (and Swedish speaker) Alexander Stubb, to provide election analysis to the international media after the election results. He can be seen here, at the 26:30 mark actually daring to mention the Nazis in response to a statement about the True Finns not being a “right-wing” party by one of his colleagues on the panel answering the media.
Jan Sundberg not only disagreed with her, but then went on to state the following:
That’s very tpical for right wing populists, they’re both (social welfare advocates and nationalists), that’s what you can see when you look around in Europe. Where do they get their votes? Yes, they got them from people who are quite badly off and that’s a very important thing, but then they have together a strong nationalism, that’s the combination, that’s very typical for these parties. I mean I could go back to say the Nazis in Germany, that’s exactly what they did. Oh they’re not Nazis in fact, I was just saying, we have lots of evidence, I’m saying that.
Regardless of his clarification, that is exactly the meme Sundberg is trying to spread, that the True Finns remind him of an earlier period, that of the 1930’s in Germany, and that is what he hopes will be picked up by the international media, otherwise why bring it up at all? KGS
NOTE: Vasarahammer told the TT that “It seems that it could be a hit job designed by Alexander Stubb who comes from a Swedish language family but represents National Coalition Party.”
True Finns smeared by handpicked professor from the Swedish minority
Finnish parliamentary election is normally a minor affair in the international media. You may catch a couple of lines here and there but with no major headlines. However, this time was an exception since the True Finns party led by Timo Soini scored a big victory with 19 per cent of the vote and 39 seats in the parliament containing 200 seats in total. The 15 per centage point gain in the election was the biggest ever in Finnish electoral history.
Since few people outside Finland know what the party is like, it is relatively easy to spread misinformation and outright lies about the party. If you want to read a good an honest analysis about the reasons behind the rise of True Finns, please read blogger Ironmistresses piece here. In that she tells why True Finns is not a good translation of the party name Perussuomalaiset, who represent regular average Finns who work to earn their money, pay taxes and normally do not upset anyone. She also tells why Finnish “Matti and Maija” i.e. Average Joe and Jane got fed up with the system and protested by turning to the True Finns party. The main issue that tested the patience of an average Finn was the following according to Ironmistress:
“…the planned bailout plan of the PIGS countries, especially that of Portugal, was the straw which broke the camel’s back.”
Just ahead of the election BBC website published an article about the True Finns nationalism and how it colors the Finnish election. The article relied heavily on a single expert, Jan Sundberg, the professor of political science in the University of Helsinki. The BBC article borrowed from Sundberg especially when it describes the “nationalist” message of the party:
“The True Finns’ manifesto indicates they have much in common with right-wing populist parties elsewhere in Europe.”
“They believe that a low birth rate is not solved by immigration, as that results in problems and foreigners do not fit into Finnish culture. Instead, young women should study less and spend more time giving birth to pure Finnish children. That is like a faint echo of Nazi ideology.”
Even though BBC can be accused of leftist bias, this time it was Sundberg talking not the Al-Beeb. In early April Sundberg wrote an op-ed in Hufvudstadsbladet, the largest Swedish-language daily in Finland , in which he rather hysterically stated the following:
“True Finns election manifesto is revealing. When it comes to family policy the party thinks that too few children are born in Finland. The problem isn’t solved by immigration because that leads to problems and the immigrants don’t belong here. The young studens should concentrate more on having babies instead of studying and enriching the nation with real Finns.”
“Parallels to Nazist newspaper Völkische Beobachter are clear, since in that the German Frau was encouraged to give birth to more German Aryans. It is strange that the feminist movements have not reacted to this.”
BBC article does not refer to the True Finns election manifesto, since it is available only in Finnish here.
The part that Sundberg refers to deals with young students who postpone having children because of long studying times and dire personal economy. The piece in the manifesto containing the part Sundberg refers to is the following:
“According to True Finns the future of the society lies in its children and the young. At the moment the birth rate in our country is 1.8 children per woman. At the same time a large number of people in the child-bearing age studies with the support of a small student grant and lives, by Finnish standards, below the poverty line while working to earn the student grant. It is strange that the only remedy to that seems to be immigration. The society should provide conditions, in which more young Finns than today would have a real chance to start a family and have children. Children are always welcome, since they are a natural part of life and a precondition to the future of the nation.”
“Since the time studying takes on the average has increased mainly because Finns are educated too much and studying is undersupported at the individual level, True Finns see that the support for student families has to be increased. Otherwise couples in the best childbearing age are too badly equipped to have children. If all couples postpone having children until they are thirty years of age, the average number of children will remain below two and the age structure of the population will be distorted.”
This part addresses a very real problem in Western societies. University educated people postpone having children until they are close to 30, which leads to low birth rates. While you may not agree with the True Finns proposal, you need to stretch your imagination to make the two paragraphs above look like a Nazi thing. This, of course, is no problem for the likes of Jan Sundberg.
BBC article was not by far the only one smearing the True Finns party. Especially, the Swedish mainstream media has been busy portraying the party as the evil incarnate. The Swedish media are in a special position, since they can follow the Finnish election through the Swedish language media in Finland. And the Finnish Swede journalists have been busy providing the ammunition for the smear campaign. The socialist Aftonbladet has been especially busy publishing what the Finnish Swede journalists have to offer.
In the first article, two journalists of Hufvudstadsbladet tell about how badly Swedish speakers are treated in the streets of Helsinki. They imply that this is due to the True Finns election victory. In the second one, Aftonbladets tells how “Finland is turning inward”. In the article, you can see how Aftonbladet expresses its astonishment why so many other parties are willing to cooperate with True Finns.
Of course, the Swedish MSM have their own reasons to smear True Finns. The anti-establishment Sweden Democrats party is demonized in Swedish media and all other political parties refuse to cooperate with it in any way. The Swedish MSM want to portray this as a normal “democratic” way of dealing with the issue and express their horror when somebody is actually willing to treat a horrible party like True Finns as a possible coalition partner. So far, only the Greens party in Finland has refused outright to form a coalition with the True Finns party.
For the Finnish Swedes the issue is different. True Finns manifesto contains an item demanding the abolishment of the mandatory Swedish language education in Finnish schools. The Finnish Swedes who are represented by the Swedish People’s Party have been a regular feature in Finnish government for almost 40 years and will take part in any government that agrees to maintain the current status of Swedish language in Finland.
This time there is a real risk that SFP (RKP) will not be part of the future government. This also explains the hostility and smears that they spread in the Swedish media. The Swedish speakers constitute 5 per cent of the population, but Swedish is still one of the two official languages in Finland. SFP wants to retain the official bilingualism and see the abolishment of mandatory Swedish as a threat to that.
However, the Hufvudstadsbladet journalists have perhaps a gone a bit too far when they try to portray Finnish Swedes as victims. Swedish speakers in Finland are one of the most pampered minorities anywhere in the world, even though the Finnish speakers very often fail to show enough enthusiasm for the official bilingualism. And finally, Jan Sundberg is not smearing True Finns because he’s a typical leftist academic. He’s smearing the party because he considers it a threat to the status of Swedish language in Finland.