freedom of speech

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?

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Monday, June 7th, 2010 Miscellaneous No Comments