Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Perussuomalaiset to boost nationalist support in Europe

09 Sep 2018, 21:08 ( 9 days ago) | updated: 10 Sep 2018, 14:18 ( 8 days ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Chairman of Perussuomalaiset (Finns Party) Jussi Halla-aho. Photo Perussuomalaiset by Matti Matikainen.

The leadership of Finnish populist party, Perussuomalaiset (Finns Party) this summer has taken the role of a catalyst to enhance the right wing cooperation at the Nordic and European level.

As an indication of the new convergences, Jussi Halla-aho, the chairman of the Perussuomalaiset, is to attend the election party of the Sweden Democrats in Stockholm on Sunday night.

The wider vista is to create an all-European right-wing nationalist grouping in the European Parliament after the May 2019 elections.

"We have talked with various right wing parties about what kind of ideas they have about the new European parliament," Halla-aho told national broadcaster Yle recently.

After the 2014 European parliament election, the nationalist parties ended up splitting among four European Parliament groupings. The relations between these parties were tense.

Halla-aho elaborated that in 2014 all the parties were concerned about their image. They were all "in the margin" in their home country and they had the need to emphasize "not being" like nationalist parties in other countries that perhaps had a bad reputation. "But since that time nationalist thinking has become mainstream and there is no need to emphasize those differences," Hallo-aho said.

The main grouping comprising the populists in the European Parliament has been European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). It has included also the British conservatives that will be out of the European Parliament in March 2019. The second largest populist grouping has been Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD). From there the UK Independence Party will disappear with the exit of Britain.

Tuukka Yla-Anttila, Researcher of Tampere University, told Yle of late that some ten years ago the populist parties were so variable that cohesion was not possible, but now immigration has become a joint theme and the parties share common views, for example, on strengthening the borders of the EU.

Halla-aho said the appreciation of the concept "nation state" will be a common denominator. "A nation state is a good societal form," Halla-aho summed.

At the Nordic level, the Perussuomalaiset  has established ties with the Sweden Democrats that are expected to improve their popularity in the election this weekend.

While the Perussuomalaiset has cooperated with the Danish People's Party and that party has had good contacts with the Sweden Democrats, the relationship between the Finnish and Swedish populists was icy until this year.

The previous Finnish populist leader Timo Soini was concerned with the anti-immigration reputation of the Sweden Democrats, but since Halla-aho took over the chairmanship of the Perussuomalaiset  in 2017, that is no longer a problem as immigration issue has become a core issue.

The historical background of Nordic populists varies greatly. Yla-Anttila pointed out that the Sweden Democrats have roots dating back to fascist ideas of the 1940s while the Perussuomalaiset has a rural populist background with earlier emphasis on the less affluent rural population. The Norwegian Progress Party meanwhile stems from a market liberal taxation revolt.

"Even though the parties will be forming a populist family of parties, the Swedish democrats cannot be disassociated from their legacy," Yla-Anttila said.

In July the Sweden Democrats were admitted into the ECR group. Now the Finnish, Danish and Swedish nationalists are in the same grouping in the European Parliament. Halla-aho was unwilling to speculate what would happen next, but said the Perussuomalaiset has been "in contact with many parties".

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