On Sunday 13 June, Finland went to the polls, which was a great success for the nationalist True Finns. The party's overall result in the country's municipalities was 14,5 percent, an increase of 5,6 percentage points and 581 new seats since the last municipal election in 2017.
Prospects are not rosy for the Center Party, which lost almost three percentage points and 376 seats. Swedish outlet Nya Tider spoke to several nationalist figures: “Now we see that the Center Party is weakening in many municipalities while the True Finns are increasing,” says True Finn Olli Kotro. “I expect that we will make strong progress. In the parliamentary election in two years, we can become the country’s largest party,” according to party leader Jussi Halla-aho.
In the run-up to the local elections, one of the big features was the True Finns’ phenomenal success in terms of public opinion. The nationalist and immigration-critical party had been struggling and when the previous municipal election took place, in April 2017, the party was in crisis. Former party leader Timo Soini, known for his outbursts against the establishment, had suddenly become foreign minister and thus one of the country’s most established and privileged politicians. This was bound to damage the party.
This, in combination with betrayed election promises, meant that the party’s voters sought to return to other parties, such as the Center Party, the National Coalition Party or the Social Democrats. The municipal election was a cold shower: the party received only 8,8 percent of the total votes. About a third of all True Finnish seats were dissolved.
Two months later, Jussi Halla-aho, from the party’s strongly nationalist wing, was elected party leader. The party split when the previously more liberal establishment formed a new party to secure its positions close to power inside the government.
True Finns faced a bleak future, and political scientists emphasized that Halla-aho was too radical, which would make success impossible. But voters began to return, and in the 2019 parliamentary elections, the party was only 0,2 percentage points from becoming the country’s largest.
Today, it polls around 20 percent in public opinion, and in some areas it is already the country’s largest party – a sweet revenge for the mocked Halla-aho.
When Nya Tider visited the polling stations in central Helsinki, there were plenty of curious people at the True Finns’ election booth, while interest in other parties was tepid. Ville Tavio, the party’s group leader in the Riksdag, talks to a female voter. Photo: Nya Tider
A day before the vote, Olli Kotro expressed his view that the party would do well. “I expect a very strong result, probably our best result in the municipal elections ever. In the last municipal election in 2017, the True Finns sat in the government, with Timo Soini as party leader. Many voters were dissatisfied and it was not surprising that he was forced to resign in the end.”
A strong municipal election would be a signal of strength before the parliamentary election, says Kotro, especially in light of the fact that the party has historically always been weaker in the municipal elections compared to the national level. They are expecting to reach up to 25 percent in the next parliamentary election, in 2023, and thus become the country’s largest party by far.
“Traditionally, the Center Party has dominated the countryside, and the True Finns have not had a significant regional organization with employed staff and election workers. Now we see that the Center Party is weakening in many municipalities while the True Finns are increasing.”
The Center Party lost votes after the startling decision taken by the government to postpone the election to April, and then due to the Coronavirus, election day was changed to 13 June. According to the True Finns, it was a calculated political strategy to counter the rise of the nationalist party to postpone an election in April.
“I think the political establishment thought it could buy itself time with this move, in order to be able to minimize the True Finns’ results. But the strategy has not worked, and now before the election, the Center Party is in a panic. They have very poor opinion figures, and that is due to their Euro-globalist agenda, which does not have the support of the Finnish people – least of all in the Finnish countryside.”
The early voting took place from 26 May to 8 June. The number of early votes was more than in any other municipal election. The party already has a very large influence in many municipalities.
“In any case, the True Finns will become so big that we cannot be ignored. They will need to listen to us, and we will have influence. Everything else would be political suicide. Voters do not tolerate being ignored, especially not in those municipalities where the party shows a strong election result. In this way, Finland differs from Sweden, where the Sweden Democrats can still be isolated both in the Riksdag and in municipalities where they are strong.”
Finland often points to neighbouring Sweden as an example of horror. Jussi Halla-aho recently warned that the country would eventually have the same problem as Sweden. “We are where Sweden was 15 years ago, and we will end up in the same situation as they are today, because we do not want to learn anything,” Halla-aho wrote on Facebook.
“It is also worth noting that Sweden has the fourth highest number of sexual offenses in the EU, after the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Sweden has a population of 10 million, Great Britain 66 million, Germany 80 million and France 67 million. In relation to the population, Sweden has the top position. The explanation is of course a lower registration threshold,” Halla-aho noted, mocking political analysts who desperately try to find other explanations for obvious problems.
“Rapid population growth based on immigration is a threat to security. Sweden is a warning example of a country where immigration has meant that many districts have been taken over by gangs and are affected by gang crime,” according to party secretary Simo Grönroos.
When Nya Tider visited the polling booths in central Helsinki, many voters expressed their concern about the developments in Sweden. “You had the best country in the world. Now look at what it looks like. It’s inconceivable. Our neighbouring country, which we always looked up to, is on its way to becoming a Muslim caliphate,” said one candidate.
Olli Kotro also alluded to Sweden: “Sweden […] is often used as an example when we discuss immigration. The mistakes that Sweden has made clearly show that if we do not change immigration policy in Finland, we too will have riots and burning suburbs – something we are spared today. Finland often follows Sweden’s path, and I fear that we will do the same regarding immigration, albeit at a slower pace.”
He added: “There are many good things with Sweden, for example your currency – you are not in the eurozone like us – and it would be a much better example to follow.”
Although the party is strongest outside the big cities, Jussi Halla-aho is running as mayoral candidate in Helsinki, where the party has comparatively weak support. But the militant Halla-aho has used the candidacy partly as a way of creating publicity, and the possibility that he could become mayor cannot be ruled out.
“It is extremely important that Jussi Halla-aho stands in the mayoral election. If he did not do so, the Greens and the National Coalition Party would present the election as a duel between themselves, just as they did last time. But the real opposition in the country is the True Finns, as Jussi demonstrated with his candidacy. It is a fact however that True Finns are weaker in Helsinki than in many other municipalities.”
True Finns, as expected, presented immigration as the major issue in the election, but the capital is a melting pot for Europhiles and multiculturalists. Even so, Jussi Halla-aho got more personal votes than anyone else in Helsinki, according to a preliminary election result.
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