Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Debate on immigration feeds support for right-wing party

07 Jul 2018, 03:45 ( 7 Months ago) | updated: 07 Jul 2018, 03:50 ( 7 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Photo Perussuomalaiset by Matti Matikainen.Matti Matikainen

The support for anti-immigration political line is increasing in Finland irrespective of the actual domestic immigration situation. This is one of the conclusions by analysts in the wake of unexpected survey results this week.

In a poll commissioned by the national broadcaster Yle, Perussuomalaiset (Finns Party)  exceeded ten percent backing and surpassed the Left League to become the fifth largest party. Party chairman Jussi Halla-aho said that his party "aims at becoming the largest in Finland".

A Finnish language newspaper Keskisuomalainen noted in its comment on Friday that under the leadership of Halla-aho, the party's anti-immigration profile has been accentuated.

The issue of immigration has been marginal in Finland's domestic political scene, and the increased support could be mainly attributed to the enhanced debates in the European Union (EU), Keskisuomalainen concluded.

Commentator Unto Hamalainen, a long-time observer of the Finnish political scene, told Yle on Thursday that in the May 2019 parliamentary election, the current effort of European right-wing parties to attain power may also reach Finland. He expected a high key campaign by the Finns Party.

Jussi Rahkonen, research director of the Taloustutkimus institute, which did the poll for Yle, said that the possibility of a rise of the Finns Party in Finland is not comparable to that of Swedish Democrats in Sweden. Rahkonen said there is no actual refugee crisis in Finland and the immigration policy has been in efficient control.

The Perussuomalaiset split in the summer of 2017 following the election of Halla-aho as chairman and the ousting from the party executive ranks of loyalists to the previous chairman, foreign minister Timo Soini. Under Halla-aho, the issue of immigration has become central, while continued opposition to same-sex marriage, a key item on Soini's agenda, has receded.

Soini and other governmental ministers from the Perussuomalaiset formed the break-away group that left Perussuomalaiset last year. It named itself the Sininen Tulevaisuus (Blue Reform).

In the poll published this week, the new party's backing was only one percent. Keskisuomalainen defined the situation of the Blue Reform as hopeless. The position of Blue Reform has been worsened by the legislation that does not allow a break-away group to walk away with public political financing.

Besides the increased popularity of Perussuomalaiset, the poll did not reflect other new trends.

The opposition social democrats remained in the lead and were the only party whose backing exceeded twenty percent, but were followed narrowly by the Kansallinen Kokoomus (National Coalition Party-NCP). Suomen Keskusta (Centre Party) led by the current prime minister Juha Sipilä, was far behind the two and enjoyed sixteen percent backing. The Greens were at fourteen ahead of the Perussuomalaiset.