Finns Party

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True Finns
Perussuomalaiset (Finnish)
Sannfinländarna
(Swedish)
Leader Timo Soini
Founded 11 May 1995
Preceded by Finnish Rural Party (de facto)
Headquarters Mannerheimintie 40 B 56
FI-00100 Helsinki
Ideology Finnish nationalism[1]
National populism[2][3]
Social conservatism[4]
Euroscepticism[1]
Political position Fiscal: Centre-left[5][6]
Social: Right-wing
European Parliament group Europe of Freedom and Democracy
Official colours None
(Blue, White and Gold used on logo)
Parliament
39 / 200
European Parliament
1 / 13
Municipalities[7]
443 / 10,412
Website
www.perussuomalaiset.fi

True Finns or The Finns Party[8][note 1] (Finnish: Perussuomalaiset, PS, Swedish: Sannfinländarna, Sannf.) is a populist and nationalist political party in Finland, founded in 1995 following the dissolution of the Finnish Rural Party. The head of the party is Timo Soini. The party combines left-wing[5] economic policies with conservative social values.

In the 2011 parliamentary election, the party won 19.1% of votes,[10] becoming the third largest party in the Finnish Parliament.[11] They are currently the largest opposition party in the parliament.[12]

In the parliament seating order, it has been placed in the centre-left[13] however, central aspects of their manifesto[14] have gained support from right-wing voters as well.[15][note 2] The party has been compared by international media to the other Nordic populist parties and other similar nationalist and right-wing populist movements in Europe that share euroscepticism and are critical of globalism, whilst the party also supports the welfare state.[16][17]

Contents

History

Finnish Rural Party

The predecessor of the True Finns was the Finnish Rural Party (Suomen maaseudun puolue, SMP), founded by Centre Party dissident Veikko Vennamo in 1959. Vennamo ran into serious disagreement particularly with Arvo Korsimo, then party secretary of the Agrarian League, and was excluded from the parliamentary group. As a result, Vennamo immediately started building his own organization and founded a new party, the Finnish Rural Party. Vennamo was a populist and became a critic of President Kekkonen and of the political corruption within the "old parties", particularly the Centre Party. The Rural Party achieved its two major victories in the elections of 1970 and 1983, winning 18 and 17 seats respectively. In the 1970s the party was highly personalized in Veikko Vennamo and his style of leadership alienated some in the party, which led to a split in the parliamentary group in 1972. After the Rural Party's new rise in 1983 under Vennamo's son Pekka Vennamo the party became a partner in two coalition cabinets. However, after this the party's support declined steadily. In 1995 the party won only one seat in the parliament and soon after filed for bankruptcy.

Founding of the True Finns and rising popularity

True Finns stall at Hakaniemi square, Helsinki in 2010.

Following the collapse of the Finnish Rural Party, the decision to found True Finns was made in the summer of 1995 by Timo Soini, Raimo Vistbacka, Urpo Leppänen and Kari Bärlund. Soini had been the Rural Party's last party secretary and Vistbacka its last chairman and MP. The five thousand signatures needed for the registration of the party were collected by October 1995 and the party was added to the official party register on 13 October 1995.[18] The first party congress was held in November. Raimo Vistbacka was elected chairman of the party and Timo Soini the party secretary.[19]

After its founding in 1995, it took some time before the True Finns started to win credible ground in the Finnish elections. At the time of its founding the party had one MP, Raimo Vistbacka (having been the last MP of the Rural Party), who was reelected in the 1999 election. In the 2003 parliamentary election the party won three seats: besides Vistbacka also Soini and Tony Halme were elected. In the 2007 parliamentary election the party gained two further seats for a total of five. In the 2008 municipal election the party was most successful in those districts where the Social Democrats and the Left Alliance lost most.[20] In the 2011 parliamentary election (see below) the Centre Party suffered the largest blow from the True Finns' success.

According to a 2008–2009 study the party's supporters view themselves as centrist: on a scale where 1 is extreme left and 10 is extreme right the average True Finns supporter placed him/herself at 5.4. According to the same study the party's supporters are united by patriotism and social conservatism.[21]

According to a 2011 study the True Finns are the most popular party among voters with an annual income of 35,000–50,000 euros, while over a quarter of the party's voters earn over 50,000 per year.[22][23] The same study also indicates that the party's voters include a higher percentage of blue collar workers than those of the Social Democratic Party.[23]

Timo Soini

True Finns party chairman Timo Soini.

Recent elections

Support for the True Finns by municipality in the 2011 parliamentary election—of all parties the True Finns' support was spread out most evenly across the country.[24] The party's strongest electoral district was Satakunta (23.6%), while the strongest municipality was Kihniö (53.2%). The weakest electoral district for the party was the capital Helsinki (13%). Compared to the rest of the country, the party's support was low also in municipalities with a high percentage of Swedish speakers.

True Finns obtained 39 seats in the 2011 election, making them the third largest party, narrowly behind the National Coalition (44) and the Social Democrats (42). Soini received 43,212 personal votes, the highest number of all candidates,[25] leaving behind the Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and the Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen in their Uusimaa electoral district.[26] The popularity of the party rose from 4.1% to 19.1% in just four years. Helsingin Sanomat said in an editorial that True Finns and Soini had "rewritten the electoral history books".[27] According to the BBC, behind the success of True Finns was Soini's "brain, wit and charisma".[28] According to political analyst Jan Sundberg, Soini has the ability to appeal to common people and make complicated things look easy.[29] The election result was also referred to as "shocking" and "exceptional".[10]

After the election the National Coalition Party (NCP) began negotiations aiming to form a cabinet between the NCP, the Social Democrats (SDP) and True Finns. However, when it became clear that the NCP and the SDP would continue to support EU bailouts, which the True Finns vehemently opposed during the electoral campaign, the True Finns voluntarily broke from the negotiations in order to become the leading opposition party. Soini said that the party would not compromise its core principles just to get in the government.[30] According to an opinion poll most of the party's supporters accepted this decision.[31]

In the opinion polls the party's popularity has risen after the election as well: in June one opinion poll recorded the True Finns a popularity of 23 per cent.[32] The party's membership has risen too: as of summer 2011 the party has some 5,500 members (significantly up from 1,000 in 2005).[33][34] After the parliamentary election the number of members of the party's Youth Organisation has risen from 800 to over 1,300.[35]

Timo Soini's poster for the 2012 presidential election.

The party nominated Soini as its candidate for the presidential election of 2012.[36] Soini finished fourth in the election with 9.4 percent.[37] Soini interpreted the result by saying that half of the party's voters wanted him for president, while the other half wanted to keep him as the party's chairman.[38]

Policies

Policies of the party include the following, as outlined in the electoral program for the 2011 election:[39][40]

Fiscal

  • Progressive taxation and the welfare state[40]

True Finns have proposed more progressivity to taxes in order to avoid the establishment of flat taxation. The party has called for the raising of the capital gains tax and the re-institution of the wealth tax. According to the party, the willingness to pay taxes is best guaranteed by a society unified by right social policies — the electoral program warns against individualist policies, which weaken the solidarity between citizens. "The willingness to pay taxes is guaranteed by having a unified people", the program reads (p. 46).[40]

Some observers have compared True Finns' fiscal policies to the old national Social Democratic taxation policy, which has given the left-wing brand to the True Finns. During the electoral campaign in 2011 Soini stated that he preferred the Social Democrats over the center-right National Coalition Party as a possible coalition partner in a future cabinet. Soini has stated that the True Finns are a "workers' party without socialism".[41] A researcher for the opinion polling company Taloustutkimus agreed, describing the True Finns as a "non-socialist workers' party".[42]

  • State support for rural regions, including support for agriculture

True Finns' rural policy program suggests state subsidies to relieve the effect of structural changes on the rural areas.[40] This policy is shared by the Centre Party in Finland and originates from the agrarian and rural policies of both parties.

  • Increased state investment in infrastructure and industry[40]

True Finns favour state investments in infrastructure and industry as well. A tendency towards favouring old industrial policies have led some political analysts to label True Finns as a center-left party.

Energy

  • Aspiration to energy self-reliance and support to nuclear energy[40]
  • Pro-industry environmental policy — opposition to green tax reform and to taxpayers' involvement in emission trading funds[40]

Cultural

The Finnish name for 'pharmacy' is illuminated, but not the Swedish one. True Finns want to abolish mandatory Swedish in education.
  • Abolition of the obligatory character of the second national language (Swedish in Finnish-language schools and vice versa) in curriculums on all levels of education, freeing up time for the learning of other foreign languages such as English, German, French, Spanish and Russian (especially in the eastern part of the country)[40]
  • Support for those cultural activities that "promote the Finnish identity"[40]

The cultural program of True Finns, preferring "traditional art" over what the party calls postmodernism in state subsidies, started a debate.[43][44] There was some debate on the issue inside the party as well.[45]

Social

Immigration

Regarding immigration policy the 2011 manifesto emphasises:

  • Limiting humanitarian immigration strictly to refugee quotas (which should be adapted to correspond with the economic situation),
  • Limiting family unification to proven direct relatives only, and requiring means of subsistence from the immigrant,
  • Deporting those immigrants guilty of serious or recurrent crimes,
  • Welcoming work-based immigration, provided the immigrants pay taxes and abide by Finnish labour laws,
  • Granting Finnish nationality after five years' residence in Finland, provided the immigrant masters Finnish, has no criminal record, and has means of subsistence[40]

The only written declaration to the European Parliament made by a True Finn MEP also concerns immigration matters.[46]. The party underlines the role of national sovereignty in immigration issues:

[True] Finnish immigration policy should be based on the fact that the Finns should always be able to decide for themselves the conditions under which a foreigner can come to our country and reside in our country.
—True Finns' Program for the 2011 election (p. 40)[40][47]

Timo Soini signed a pan-European charter against racism in 1998.[48] However, in 2009, before the European Parliament election, Soini refused to sign an anti-racism appeal, saying that the appeal was an attempt to influence the party's choice of candidates (the appeal was drawn up by another political party). All other Finnish parties signed this appeal against racism.[49] In May 2011, following controversies surrounding the remarks of True Finns MP Teuvo Hakkarainen, the True Finns' parliamentary group issued a statement condemning all racism and discrimination, including affirmative action.[50] The party invited other parties to sign the statement as well, but no other party did so.

Foreign and defence

Timo Soini is an outspoken critic of both the EU and NATO, but has stated that if a choice had to be made, NATO is a lesser evil than the EU. True Finns favour non-alliance or neutrality, as international activities abroad for the Defence Forces would undermine the defence budget's funds for sustaining a large conscript army of war-time personnel (which is currently at 350,000) to guarantee the defence of all of Finland.[40] When the Finnish Parliament voted to ratify the Ottawa Treaty, banning anti-personnel mines, in November 2011, the True Finns were the only party unified in opposing the treaty.[51]

The party believes in national sovereignty:

[T]he eternal and unlimited right to always decide freely and independently of all of one's affairs lies only and solely with the people, which forms a nation separate of others.
—True Finns' Program for the 2011 election (p. 7)[40]

Judicial

During the 2011 election its judicial programme included:[40]

  • Tougher punishments for crime, though no reintroduction of the death penalty
  • More resources for police and prosecutors
  • Opposition to any incorporation of Sharia law into judicial practices

Election results

Parliamentary elections

Parliament of Finland
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats won
1999 26,440 0.99% 1
2003 43,816 1.57% 3
2007 112,256 4.05% 5
2011 560,075 19.05% 39

Presidential elections

President of Finland
Election year Candidate # of total votes  % of overall vote
2000 Ilkka Hakalehto 31,405 1.03%
2006 Timo Soini 103,368 3.43%
2012 Timo Soini 287,571 9.40 %

European Parliament elections

European Parliament
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats won # MEP
1996 15,004 0.67% 0
1999 9,854 0.79% 0
2004 8,900 0.54% 0
2009 162,930 9.79% 1 Timo Soini 2009–2011</br> Sampo Terho 2011–

Municipal elections

Municipal councils
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats won
1996 21,999 0.93% 138
2000 14,712 0.66% 109
2004 21,417 0.90% 106
2008 137,497 5.39% 443

Leadership

Chairmanship and party secretaries

An ex-police commissioner and MP Raimo Vistbacka was elected the first chairman of the True Finns in Kokkola party congress in November, 1995. Photograph from 2011.

The party chairmanship is divided between four persons, elected at party congress biannually. Timo Soini has been chairman since 1997. The first deputy chairwoman is Hanna Mäntylä, the second deputy chairman is Juho Eerola and the third deputy chairman is Reijo Ojennus.[52]

Raimo Vistbacka chaired the True Finns from 1995 to 1997. After him the party secretary Timo Soini became the chairman in 1997. Rolf Sormo was the next party secretary, from 1997 to 1999. The third party secretary, Hannu Purho, served the longest time so far, from 1999 to 2007. After him, Timo Soini's parliamentary assistant, Ossi Sandvik, was elected party secretary in 2007.

Board members

The board of True Finns has eight members: Seppo Huhta, Vuokko Lahti, Pekka Leskinen, Pirita Nenonen, Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner, Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo, Seppo Toriseva and Raimo Vistbacka. The party's chairmen and the party secretary take part in the meetings as well.[53]

Elected representatives

Parliament of Finland

Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner is the current chairwoman of the parliamentary group. The chairmanships of the committees (valiokunnat, singular valiokunta) are shared between the parties in such a way that True Finns chair the Foreign Affairs Committee, Administration Committee, and Defence Committee.[54]

Former Members of Parliament

European Parliament

Party chairmen

Party secretaries

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Political parties". CivicActive. http://www.nsd.uib.no/european_election_database/country/finland/parties.html. Retrieved 13 March 2010. 
  2. "Valgsensasjon i Finland" (in Norwegian). Norwegian News Agency (NTB). 17 April 2011. http://www.dagbladet.no/2011/04/17/nyheter/politikk/utenriks/finland/valg/16228760/. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  3. "Finske populister skummer proteststemmer" (in Danish). Ritzau. 17 April 2011. http://www.tv2oj.dk/artikel/63137:Udland--Finske-populister-skummer-proteststemmer. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  4. Mäkinen, Esa (20 April 2011). "HS-arvokartta: Soini johtaa vasemmistopuoluetta". Helsingin Sanomat. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/artikkeli/HS-arvokartta+Soini+johtaa+vasemmistopuoluetta/1135265548291. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Helsinki Times, March 03 2011: The True Finns and the economy.
  6. http://yle.fi/uutiset/teemat/vaalit_2011/2011/04/kihnio_on_suomen_perussuomalaisin_kunta_2523739.html?sendtofriend=true
  7. Municipal elections 2008, number of elected councillors. Statistics Finland. Retrieved on 30 March 2010.
  8. http://yle.fi/uutiset/news/2011/08/quottrue_finnsquot_name_their_party_quotthe_finnsquot_2807245.html
  9. YLE:"True Finns" name their party "The Finns", retrieved 22.8.2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 Helsingin Sanomat, April 18 2011, 'SUNDAY EVENING : ELECTION SPECIAL'
  11. YLE: General Elections 2011 in Finland - Result by party, retrieved 18.4.2011
  12. http://suomenkuvalehti.fi/blogit/polkomfi/valikysymys-mittaa-keskustan-ja-perussuomalaisten-yhteistyon
  13. Seating order of the Parliament of Finland in 2011
  14. Perussuomalaiset r.p:n eduskuntavaaliohjelma 2011/True Finn Parliamentary manifesto 2011 (only in Finnish)
  15. The True Finns followed a well-known recipe for success
  16. "True Finns' nationalism colours Finland election". BBC News. 15 April 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13091920. 
  17. http://www.social-europe.eu/2011/04/in-finland-we-experienced-this-thing-called-jytky
  18. http://www.vaalit.fi/15366.htm
  19. Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Maari Vaaherkumpu ,23rd April, 2011, page 15
  20. Party analysis - True Finns won the day. Statistics Finland
  21. http://yle.fi/uutiset/talous_ja_politiikka/2009/02/perussuomalaiset_nakertavat_keskustan_kannatusta_555161.html
  22. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/artikkeli/Perussuomalaiset+on+hyvin+toimeentulevan+ty%C3%B6v%C3%A4est%C3%B6n+puolue/1135269068554
  23. 23.0 23.1 http://www.stakes.fi/yp/2011/4/rahkonen.pdf
  24. http://yle.fi/uutiset/teemat/vaalit_2011/2011/04/perussuomalaisilla_koko_maan_tasaisin_kannatus_2525161.html
  25. YLE - Soini nousi äänikuninkaaksi, 17.4.2011
  26. YLE - Uusimaa - Ehdokkaiden äänimäärät, 18.4.2011
  27. Helsingin Sanomat, April 18 2011, 'EDITORIAL: Timo Soini rewrote the electoral history books'
  28. BBC News, 17 April 2011: 'Profile: Finland's Timo Soini'
  29. Jackson, Patrick (17 April 2011). "Profile: Finland's Timo Soini". BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13111468. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  30. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/artikkeli/Soini+j%C3%A4tt%C3%A4ytyi+oppositioon+dramaattisissa+tunnelmissa/1135266087236
  31. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/artikkeli/HS-gallup+Soinin+oppositioratkaisulle+vankka+tuki+%C3%A4%C3%A4nest%C3%A4jilt%C3%A4/1135266284515
  32. http://yle.fi/uutiset/talous_ja_politiikka/2011/06/perussuomalaiset_nousi_suosituimmaksi_puolueeksi_2695250.html
  33. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/artikkeli/Vihreiden+j%C3%A4senm%C3%A4%C3%A4r%C3%A4+kasvanut+r%C3%A4j%C3%A4hdysm%C3%A4isesti/1135267497920
  34. http://www.kauppalehti.fi/5/i/talous/uutiset/etusivu/uutinen.jsp?oid=20110364985&ext=rss&request_ahaa_info=true
  35. http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/artikkelit/?issue=868
  36. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/Soinin+minimitavoite+p%C3%A4%C3%A4st%C3%A4+toiselle+kierrokselle/a1305547278525
  37. http://yle.fi/vaalit/tulospalvelu/2012/presidentinvaali/ensimmainen_vaali/ehdokkaiden_kannatus.html
  38. http://yle.fi/uutiset/teemat/presidentinvaalit/2012/01/soini_mikas_tassa_on_ollessa_3195451.html
  39. http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/arvomaailmamme
  40. 40.00 40.01 40.02 40.03 40.04 40.05 40.06 40.07 40.08 40.09 40.10 40.11 40.12 40.13 40.14 40.15 40.16 Program for the 2011 election
  41. http://www.verkkouutiset.fi/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36009%3Atimo-soini-tyoevaeenpuolue-ilman-sosialismia&Itemid=8
  42. http://www.uusisuomi.fi/kotimaa/110764-yleinen-harhaluulo-perussuomalaisista-paljastui
  43. Helsingin Sanomat: Sofi Oksanen rinnastaa perussuomalaiset Hitleriin
  44. Helsingin Sanomat: Sofi Oksanen rinnastaa perussuomalaiset Hitleriin (Sofi Oksanen equated the Perusuomalaiset with Hitler)
  45. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/artikkeli/Perussuomalaisissa+leimahti+taidekiista+ehdokkaalle+erovaatimus/1135264386852
  46. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sidesSearch/search.do?type=WDECL&language=EN&term=7&author=96666
  47. Worth, Jon (21 April 2011). "The True Finns followed a well-known recipe for success – Jon Worth". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/21/true-finns-nationalist-populists-european-parties. 
  48. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/artikkeli/Keskustanuoret+ep%C3%A4ilev%C3%A4t+perussuomalaisten+hyv%C3%A4ksyv%C3%A4n+rasismin/1135245241545
  49. True Finns renounce racism, discrimination, and favouritism: MP Hakkarainen reprimanded for intemperate remarks. Helsingin Sanomat http://www.hs.fi/english/article/True+Finns+renounce+racism+discrimination+and+favouritism/1135266444787
  50. http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/ajankohtaista/?issue=912
  51. http://www.hs.fi/politiikka/Suomi+kielt%C3%A4%C3%A4+jalkav%C3%A4kimiinat/a1305550098356
  52. http://www.iltasanomat.fi/kotimaa/hanna-mantyla-perussuomalaisten-varapuheenjohtajaksi-/art-1288396413657.html#send-comment
  53. http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/puoluehallitus
  54. 54.0 54.1 http://www.uusisuomi.fi/kotimaa/111576-eduskunnan-valtajako-selvisi-%E2%80%93-naille-paikoille-perussuomalaiset
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 55.3 http://www.satakunnankansa.fi/cs/Satellite/Satakunta/1194676315526/artikkeli/anssi+joutsenlahti+eduskunnan+toiseksi+varapuhemieheksi.html
  56. http://web.eduskunta.fi/Resource.phx/valiokunnat/valiokunta-puv01/index.htx?subpage=jasenet&te=puv01

References


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