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Laura Huhtasaari; Helsinki's Parliament building (Wikipedia)

Finland’s Marine Le Pen?

One of the eight contenders to be Finland’s next president, is Laura Huhtasaari. The candidate of the Finns Party has highlighted the growing anti-immigrant, anti-establishment movement, much like France's Marine Le Pen.

Published: January 28, 2018, 7:10 am

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    Helsinki

    The politician is regularly called “Finland’s Marine Le Pen” in the local press.

    Huhtasaari, 38, has criticised the European Union, applauded Brexit and Donald Trump. She has urged her supporters to “take their country back” and ends her rallies with: “Finland first!”

    “I’m here to remind people that the Finns Party is truly an alternative to the mainstream,” Huhtasaari told Politico in an interview. “I want to change the direction of Finland and take back our independence.”

    President Sauli Niinistö, according to the state broadcaster YLE, is leading in the polls with 63 percent of the vote. Huhtasaari is currently at 6 percent according to a recent poll, placing her in fourth behind Green League candidate Pekka Haavisto and tied with independent Paavo Väyrynen.

    The first round of voting will take place on Sunday, and without a clear majority, the winne might be forced into a runoff on February 11.

    Huhtasaari has been a member of parliament for three years, and has used the national platform to prime the Finns Party’s base ahead of parliamentary and European elections in 2019 and regain momentum following its removal from the coalition government last summer.

    “Finland is a little bit late if you compare it to other European countries,” Huhtasaari said. “Anti-immigration parties are winning and people are waking up everywhere. They’re waking up now here, too.”

    Before entering parliament, Huhtasaari was a teacher of religion and taught children with special needs. Her way with voters has allowed Huhtasaari, the vice president of the Finns Party, to emerge as its public face, while Jussi Halla-aho, the party’s leader and a member of European Parliament, stays in the background, working on strategy.

    Halla-aho has described Islam as a religion of pedophiles, Somalis as genetically predisposed to theft, and said that Greece’s debt problems will only be solved with a military junta.

    In June 2017, Halla-aho was chosen as the successor to former leader and current Foreign Minister Timo Soini, who had announced plans to step down. That triggered a parliamentary crisis, with other parties in the ruling coalition refusing to accept a party led by Halla-aho. The end result was a split within the Finns Party, and the creation of a new party called Blue Reform that stayed in government.

    The Finns Party became the country’s second-most popular party in 2015 and joined the ruling coalition in parliament.

    According to Johanna Vuorelma, editor-in-chief of the Finnish news site Politiikasta, the Finns Party has succeeded in moving the country’s immigration debate to the right.

    “I look at Nigel Farage’s example. It took 17 years, but Brexit came. I don’t plan to wait that long,” said Huhtasaari.

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