Open Europe Blog

We have received a couple of comments in regards to our blog post below on the rise of populist parties in the wake of the eurozone bail-outs. Some have been unhappy about our assertion that the Front National is gaining ground in French politics, whereas others have taken issue with us mentioning the True Finns in the same breath as the Front National and FPÖ (the expression “not as bad as FPÖ” has caused particular offence).

But on the point about the True Finns, a clarification might be appropriate. The True Finns party, or Perussuomalaiset in Finnish, has its roots in an anti-incumbency, rural protest movement from the 1950s, leading to the formation of a political party, eventually named the Finnish Rural Party. The party’s dissolution in 1995 led to the creation of the True Finns (one of the party’s slogans, “Crush the power hold of the old parties”, is testament to its heritage). More than anything else, its euroscepticism seems to flow out of this tradition (which also explains its opposition to providing more cash to the temporary eurozone bail-out fund, the EFSF, for more bail-outs – bail-outs which we agree aren’t really working).

So clearly, the party has very different roots compared to other Scandinavian populist parties, such as the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People’s Party (for Swedish speakers, here’s an article breaking it down). The Front National, Geert Wilder’s Freedom Party etc are much farther away again from the True Finns.

In other words, the party cannot be described as “far right”, as some non-Finnish media insist on so doing. However, it cannot be described as “centre-right” either, as it draws heavily from an old school, social democratic agenda (i.e. high taxes and a big welfare state). Kind of like a social democratic tea party, with a lot of emphasis on national sovereignty and independence.

According to an opinion poll published today, the party has lost some ground over the last few days, and are now fourth in the race (compared to second in a poll published the other week) – a race that is still wide open it has to be said.

What makes this interesting for the EU and the eurozone is that Finland is the first Triple A eurozone country in which euro bail-outs have become a national election issue. As the leader of the True Finns, Timo Soini, put it, the election might evolve into the referendum which the Finnish people were refused when the euro was first introduced.

We shall see.

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