In an earlier weblog I argued that 2010 and respectively 2011 are going to be very lively years, at least politically, in the northern part of the EU; Sweden held parliamentary and local elections in September 2010, and Finland scheduled its parliamentary elections for in the first half of 2011, most likely in April. What distinguishes these elections from the previous ones is, without doubt, the ever greater presence of Radical Right Populist (RRP) parties.
How does the situation look like in the rest of Scandinavia? Well, the RRP parties are very strong in both Denmark (where the Danish People’s Party/ DFP, Dansk Folkeparti is the third largest party with some 13.9% of the electoral support; it is a member of the governing centre-right coalition), and in Norway (the Progress Party/ FrP, Fremskrittspartiet pooled no less than 22.9% of the votes in the last elections). As noted earlier, in Finland the trend is pointing in the same direction: not only that the anti-immigration, outright xenophobic and radical parties are proliferating, but the now established RRP representative, the True Finns Party (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) pooled 12.5% of the voters’ preferences in the latest survey (in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här). In other words, PS may be the fourth largest political party in Finland.
Returning to Sweden, the Sweden Democrats (SD/ Sverigedemokraterna) succeeded in what very few people would have thought it was possible. As a result of the September 19th elections, the SD will send its representatives to the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen).
In terms of distribution of the electoral support for the smaller parliamentary parties, the Left Party (V/ Vänsterpartiet) and the Swedish Christian Democrats (KD/ Kristdemokraterna) pooled 5.6% of the votes each (KD seems to have lost as much as a whole 1.00% of its voters’ support compared to the previous elections). Even more surprising was the SD’s jump of more than two percent, eventually totalling 5.7% of the voters’ support (diagram in Swedish, här; and detailed results, här). The results of the election translate into 156 mandates for the Red-Green centre-left alliance (gathering V; the Greens/ MP, Miljöpartiet; and the Social Democrats/ S, Socialdemokraterna); 173 mandates for the centre-right bourgeois alliance which appears to continue to rule the country with a minority government (this is the alliance between KD; the agrarian Centre Party/ C, Centerpartiet; the Liberal Party/ FP, Folkpartiet; and the conservative-liberal Moderate Party/ M, Moderaterna). At the same time, a total of 20 mandates are going to SD which virtually positions them as kingmakers.
Nevertheless, the Red-Greens have excluded immediately any cooperation with SD and denounced it for its radical right populist political agenda, and warned that a future government that bows to the SD’s pressure will worsen the social climate in the country. In reaction to that, the re-elected Prime Minister Reinfeld of the conservative-liberal M has dismissed any cooperation with the SD for the coming mandate. Perhaps unsurprisingly, having in mind that the SD’s party members are overwhelmingly men, out of the 20 SD future parliamentary representatives only 3 are women. This marks a serious setback for the whole gender proportionality in the Swedish Parliament.
At a closer look, the SD and its political agenda mark a clear example of a crypto-racist party that attempts to disguise its troubled past under the clothes of ‘normalcy’. To explain the above statement, the SD has in the past years vociferously made reference to giving back to the Swedish peoples the folkhem (literally translated to the house of people, thus making reference to a common national construct). The folkhem as a concept has been intimately connected to Swedish social democracy and the blooming of the welfare state at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, in the SD’s more recent interpretation, the restitution and restoration of the folkhem involves two equally important aspects.
On the one hand, there is a strong welfare chauvinist attitude connected to the use of the term. More clearly, the focus is on a restoration of the welfare totality (including pensions, unemployment benefits and healthcare), and its restitution to society’s allegedly most exposed members – those generally considered the losers of the globalizing processes. True, this comes at a moment of extreme precariousness of the working conditions (privatizations and/or externalization of the welfare services, relocation of jobs, change of work patterns). However, the disappearance of the folkhem and the inherent costs of such a restoration are blamed on those who, for one reason or another are not fulfilling the criteria for being part of the SD’s redefined folkhem. And here becomes apparent the second important aspect of their political agenda, their crypto-racism disguised in conservative ‘normalized’ clothes. The new national community, the folkhem they envisage is one based on assimilation to the point of complete homogeneity, and repudiation of ‘abnormality’ and ‘libertinism’. The assimilation project they promote stipulates the absorption of newcomers (be them immigrants or refugees, commonly seen as an external threatening Other) to an ideal Swedish homogeneity. A case in point is the SD’s undisguised opposition to immigrant people of Islamic faith, who fail to become Swedes precisely for not being Christians. From singling out a religion to alleging that a certain group of people have a gene that predisposes them to violence is but a step, and the SD party members are making it with unproblematic ease (in Swedish, här). But the guarding of purity excludes also other groups, such as the Sámi of Sweden, or the Swedish Romas. Not only that, it also defines what is to be considered morally sound and typically Swedish, in a staunchly heteropatriarchal sense, and portrays a whole panoply of groups that embody the internal evil Other to their construct. More clearly, the SD dismisses the gender equality efforts as ‘leftist propaganda’ and portrays the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community as ‘deviants’. And the solution to all these is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a toughening of the law and order policy, which is meant to fix all ills and pave the way for a rebirth of the folkhem. The SD claims to be ready to take the responsibility for this. But they are quick to add the perfect excuse for not achieving it and the endless postponing of their project: their isolation on the political scene.
One cannot help but to wonder how was it possible for the SD to convince people to cast their vote in their favour, when their welfare chauvinistic appeals (to reinstate the folkhem, or better said their very particular interpretation of the aforesaid concept) are so tightly bounded to crypto-racist stances, thinly disguised under appeals for a tougher law and order stance and a more selective and assimilative immigration policy? How closely resembles such a political option to the national-socialist promises of the early 1930s? And taking it to the wider European context, does this swiping wave of radicalism across the continent that accompanies one of the most severe financial and economic crises in modern history mark the ‘moral bankruptcy’ of late capitalism? Are the spontaneous demonstrations across Sweden that gathered people who wanted to signal their support of multiculturalism and tolerance, and the impressive support for the campaign ‘Vi gillar olika’ (a rough translation would be ‘We support diversity’) a sign of grassroots democratic rejuvenation that has the potential to flourish across Europe and counter radical right populism?
ESA RN 32 Political Sociology Mid-term Conference: Citizenship and Democracy: Membership, forms of participation, within and across European territories (4-5.11.2010 University of Lille 2, France); DL: 22.06.2010
ESA RN 32 Political Sociology conference
Citizenship and Democracy: Membership, forms of participation, within and across European territories.
The European Sociological Association’s Research Network on Political Sociology announces its first mid-term conference, to be held at the University of Lille 2 in France, 4-5 November 2010.
The Research Network is intended as a site for enduring debate and exchange to measure the scale and scope of the ongoing transformation of political order and authority in Europe and beyond. The dynamics of political ordering and re-ordering are a classical research field for comparative sociology. Over the last decades, Europe has increasingly turned into an experimental field for the re-structuring of political order. In particular European integration and the consolidation of supranational authority have made it necessary to re-address these classical themes of sociology. The establishment of a political sociology section is therefore meant as an integrating effort for evaluating the challenges to the Westphalian order of nation-states but also for testing out the opportunities for the consolidation of a new type of political order and its legitimacy. This entails an explicit focus on the advancement of institutional and organizational theory as well as on democratic theory that are detached from their implicit or explicit nation-state functions. Members include scholars working inter alia on citizenship and governance structures, political institutions, states and communities, political attitudes and forms of political participation and political communication.
The aim of this mid-term conference will be to establish the evolutions of the links between members of political communities, the territories of authority, the evolving forms of democracy, and the ways in which the political is embedded in social, economic, and cultural contexts.
In particular, we encourage submission of abstracts on the following themes:
1) Territories and practiced citizenship from the local level to the transnational Euro-context: local democracy, urban segregation and citizenship; citizenship and the nation-state; supranational and transnational forms of citizenship, etc.
2) New forms of participative democracy and transformations of representative democracy: associations, interest groups, political networks, participation in the digital public sphere; political parties and the transformation of political cleavages in a European/global context, protest parties, electoral volatility and voting behavior, etc.
3) Migrants and citizenship in Europe: urban segregation and different spheres of citizenship for migrants; representation of migrants in national party systems; (dissociation of) citizenship and nationality, citizenship and the crisis of national integration models; transnational mobilization and citizenship.
4) Populism in Europe: populism, nationalism, euroscepticism, radical right parties in the new cleavage structure of national party systems, the electorate of radical right parties, etc.
Abstracts of up to 250 words should be submitted to the organizers by 22 June 2010. Please include information on the theoretical and methodological approach as well as the key argument and/or findings of the proposed paper. Abstracts with more than one author should indicate one contact for communication.
Presenters will be sent an email informing them whether their abstract has been accepted by 15 July 2010. Presenters whose papers have been accepted must confirm their attendance at the conference by 1 September 2010.
Conference venue and organization: The conference will be hosted by the CERAPS, Lille Center for Politics. The research center is located within the Faculty of Law of the University of Lille 2, a convenient ten minute subway ride from the main train station. Lille is easily accessible by train (Eurostar and TGV). There is an airport but also direct high speed trains from the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport that only take 45 minutes. Participants are asked to make their own travel arrangements and book accommodation. We will suggest a range of hotels (prices range from €50 to €110 a night). Information on how to get to the Law School building of the University of Lille 2 by rail, bus, air and road can be found at: http://ceraps.univ-lille2.fr/fr/plan-d-acces.html. There will be a conference diner on Thursday evening and lunch provided on Friday on the premises.
To encourage participation by a broad range of early career researchers and experienced academics, there is no registration fee. To register, please write to: rn32mtc2010(at)gmail.com with the following information: name, position, affiliation with postal address, country, email address and dietary preferences.
Abstract Submission: Please submit abstracts of 250 words to: rn32mtc2010(at)gmail.com
Further information: Contact Virginie Guiraudon and Dietmar Loch at: rn32mtc2010(at)gmail.com
All Those Mighty Men Defending Democracy and the Freedom of Speech? Is Plebiscitarian Democracy Swiss Style the Future of Finnish Democracy- the Solution of a New Finnish Radical Right Populist Party? (I)
2010 and respectively 2011 are going to be very lively years, at least politically in the northern part of the EU; Sweden will held parliamentary and local elections on 19th September 2010, and Finland in the first half of 2011, most likely in April. What distinguishes these elections from the previous ones is the ever greater presence of Radical Right Populist (RRP) parties. This blog entry will be divided into two parts, first focusing on Finland and the possible rearrangements on the Finish political scene before the Finnish Parliamentary elections. The second part, which will be published in a later entry, will more carefully analyze the change in attitudes towards the main Swedish RRP, the Sweden Democrats (SD/Sverigedemokraterna), especially on behalf of the media and the party’s preparations for the coming elections in September.
In Finland, it seems that RRP parties attempt to make even deeper inroads into the national parliament. In the 2007 elections the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) received some 4.5% of the votes which translated into 5 seats in the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta/Riksdagen). Not only that, but it seems that PS was not perceived as a political force to be avoided, or ringed by the cordon sanitaire like in Sweden. As such, the 2009 EU elections witnessed the alliance between the populist PS and the Christian-Democrats (KD/Kristillisdemokraatit/Kristdemokraterna) which led to their presence in the European Parliament with 2 representatives.
But that appears to be only the beginning. Recently, the online newspapers Uusi Suomi (New Finland) published an article about the emergence of a splinter group from PS as a full-fledged party, after having gathered the required 5,000 signatures (in Finnish, tässä). The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE/Yleisradio/ Rundradion) reported on the possibility of this new RRP political force in Finland as well (more extensively in Finnish, tässä; briefly in Swedish, här).
The new political force, which reunites the more immigrant critical voices from PS, is lead by Juha Mäki-Ketelä and in the near future will apply for being recognized as a political entity, submitting the collected signatures to the Minister of Justice. According to its leader, the new political force has quite ambitious plans aiming at 2-3 seats in the future Finnish Parliament. Interestingly the party to be is called Muutos 2011 (Förändring 2011/ Change 2011). Mäki-Ketelä appeared to be rather irritated about the anti-immigration allegations and underlined that his future party will focus on the rights of Finnish citizens and the possibility of enforcing a more plebiscitary type of politics in Finland.
A closer look at the party web-pages (in Finnish, tässä; and briefly in Swedish, här; and English here) resemble a book example of RRP: the party would aim to 1) advance the interest of Finnish citizens; 2) direct democracy to support parliamentary democracy; 3) freedom of speech includes dissidents and those expressing opinions different from mainstream; 4) abandonment of consensus politics; and last but not least, 5) rationalization of immigration politics. Indeed 1) and 2) sound like the recipe for the modern democratic malaise, with low participation of the citizenry in the elections and an increasing politics of consensus that estranges even more the citizenry. Thus 4) is pointing an accusing finger, very much in the populist vein, at the Finnish political establishment that is found guilty of building consensus for their policies. 3) is intimately related to 4) since they both constitute a critique to “politics as usual” of Western democracies. And finally, 5) does not really come at a surprise if it is to remember that the party is representing PS‘ anti-immigration breakaway group.
However, some questions come to the fore. Would the Swiss model of direct democracy energize Finnish democracy, or would be the plebiscitarian option used to stave off immigration policy in Finland? How greater a role played the result of the latest Swiss referendum – that which witnessed the forbidding of minarets being built in Switzerland – in Muutos 2011 decision to embrace plebiscite as means of democratic expression? What kind of effect would have the presence of this party on PS? Will it become a part of the mainstream, even a desired coalition partner in the coming Finnish government; will other parties share PS‘ criticism of immigration and welfare protectionism?
Chisinau revisited. How to suppress the revolution that no one talks about. A few á la carte options to dealing with the Evil.
Trying to keep up with the news flow and to make some sense of the events, both foreign media and the (still) free Moldavian news platforms, and some Romanian news outlets prove crucially helpful. However, one may have the impression that something is about to happen. Contradictory reports from Moldavian media news agencies, depending on their (dis-)likings, the fewer and fewer reports Romanian news channels and newspaper are able to provide first hand, and the almost eerie peace and composure of such international channels as BBC that run “impartial opinion pieces” paints an atmosphere of a widespread backlash against demonstrators at the hands of president Voronin’s faithfuls.
CNN finally noticed that the Moldavian government has embarked on a heavy handed campaign against the few journalists that still dare to oppose the official line of disinformation about the recent events from Chisinau. Romanian TV channel Antena 3 is less reverent when it comes to such touchy subjects and bluntly maintains that Moldavian journalist from the free press have been harassed, kidnapped, and searched for “compromising materials”. Of all, the most vocal are Jurnal de Chisinau, a local Moldavian news platform targeted systematically by the on-going governmental repression. Threatened to go underground, the journal’s director declares the journalists are ready to continue the struggle to inform Moldavians and the foreign fora (OSCE, Council of Europe, etc) about the “reinstatement of dictatorship in Moldova”.
But is it so? Is a full fledged repression about to take place? Are we about to witness a bloody backlash of those clinging to power in Chisinau? If one is to believe the discussions going on in Moldova, and on the blogosphere, then it seems that the government is about to bring in the heavy stuff into the Chisinau and forcefully “pacify” the capital. So the amateur film shows a whole column of military vehicles heading into Chisinau. Why are they driven into the city? To protect the defenseless citizens protesting against the recent electoral frauds? The intimidating presence of the military vehicles will reinstate what amongst the populace?
And all these heinous events get what kind of reaction from the foreign media? As mentioned above, CNN is cautiously telling stories of journalists desperately looking for a safe heaven from the physical brutality of the governmental forces. BBC does not bother with such trivial details. On contrary they seem to gave fallen into a trap, of what seems to be a classical attempt to media intoxication. In an effort to impartiality, we learn that a student, whose name we may know, participated in the demonstrations earlier this week. Then an NGO worker did the same. We get to know her name as well. And then strangely, from the other side, so to speak, we are told that actually there were never as many as 20,000 demonstrators in the center of Chisinau, and we are given the cheesiest description of how fair the elections were and how a good government they have had the chance to get so far. No name, just a very nice recitation of old praise. For someone still having memories of the “golden years” of Ceausescu’s dictatorship this piece brings back some very chilling memories. That is not a leadership working for the common citizens, but forcing them to exult at imaginary achievements (none in their own mind can claim that being acknowledged as the poorest country in Europe is something to be proud of, since they did not start from that position, but they got there grace to the leadership of the past years). Like from another world, DW tells us that president Voronin has accepted a vote recount, as if this would prove what? That president Voronin’s faithfuls have collected only 60 instead of previously announced 61 seats in the future Legislative? Should/ could anyone wonder about how genuine were these recounts? A loss of one seat does not make a sea of change in the present situation, and it appears too cynical a clarification to just make manifestants go home happily.
So then why to intimidate and forcefully silence the genuine discontent of the Moldavians? Why to present the Moldavian youth as some sort of internal and disobedient Other when all they want is that democracy and rule of law to be respected? Equally worrying is the strange silence and extreme reservation of external media to reporting the events, and yes, allowing dissenting voices to be heard and to critically look at the on-going events.
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- Blogul Medusei (Romanian)
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- Erin Jenne's blog: IR & US politics (English)
- Feminism Romania (Romanian)
- Hufvudstadsbladet (Swedish)
- Jasmin Oksala's the Truth about the True Finns (English)
- Polish Party Politics (English)
- Salon 21
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- XY- men, masculinities and gender politics