Jobbik

Gazing into the Abyss? The Finnish Parliamentary Elections 2015

On Sunday 19 April 2015 in Finland are scheduled elections for the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta/ Riksdagen). Four years ago, in April 2011, the (True) Finns (Party) (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ SF) took Finnish politics by storm polling 19.05% of the votes, consequently increasing its parliamentary presence to 39 members of parliament (MPs) from the previously modest 5 MPs in the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen. Then, the PS/ SF skilfully combined anti-establishment and anti-EU appeals with thinly veiled xenophobic and racist stances. The PS/ SF actively chose a comfortable place on the opposition benches, from where its MPs could constantly criticize the various governmental efforts to navigate through the unfolding economic crisis, without the need to provide clear and feasible policy alternatives. At the same time, the competition between the ‘old’ agrarian populist guard around the PS/ SF chair Timo Soini and the ‘upcoming’ anti-immigration wing coalescing around such controversial figures as Jussi Halla-Aho (now one of the party’s MEPs in Brussels) and Olli Immonen appears to have sharpened. Tellingly, the PS/ SF 2015 election programme indicates, besides the imperative to defend the fatherland and strengthen further the status of Finnish language – an appeal that echoes familiar and comforting even to the moderately nationalist supporters – the need to address the existing Finnish migration policy, which is deemed too permissive and miscalibrated, and enforce a more clearly assimilative stance – an appeal unmistakably aimed to consolidate the party’s hold on the more radical voters.

The PS/ SF electoral strategy seems to have consolidated the party’s position among the 4 largest political parties in Finland. However, the opinion polls suggest the PS/ SF does not enjoy the same level of support as in the 2011 Finnish parliamentary elections and  that it has stagnated around the same level of support as in the 2014 European parliamentary elections (when the PS/ SF polled some 12.87%), hovering around 16%. This notwithstanding, the competition is still open to the PS/SF to qualify as the country’s second largest party, a trend indicated by the latest opinion polls. Indeed, the PS/ SF received some 16.2 to 16.7% in the latest opinion polls (HS/TNS Gallup, respectively YLE/Taloustukimus) whilst the largest party in the present cabinet coalition, the conservative National Coalition Party (Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Kok/ Samlingspartiet/ Saml) polled between 16.9 and 17% and the Finnish Social-Democrats (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ SDP/ Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti) show signs of wear-off after being the second largest party in the cabinet, swinging between 15.1 to 17% in the same polls.

Party Election results (April 2011) Opinion poll (HS/TNS Gallup)

(14 April 2015)

Opinion poll (YLE/Taloustutkimus)

(16 April 2015)

Election results (19 April 2015)
National Coalition Party (Kok/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet/ Saml) 20.44 17 16.9
Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP/ Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti) 19.15 17 15.1
(True) Finns (Party) (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ SF) 19.10 16.2 16.7
Cetre Party (Kesk/ Suomen Keskusta/ Centern i Finland/ C) 15.80 23 24.0
Left Alliance (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet/ Vf) 8.15 8.5 8.3
Green League (Vihr/ Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet/ G) 7.27 8.1 8.8
Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP) 4.29 4.6 4.6
Christian Democrats (KD/ Kristillisdemokraatit/ Kristdemokraterna) 4.04 3.7 3.5

A lot of speculation in the eve of elections concentrates on the possible cabinet constellations that the most likely elections victors, the Cetre Party (Kesk/ Suomen Keskusta/ Centern i Finland/ C) will attempt to construct. At the moment most likely scenarios consider if the Kesk/ C will pursue a so-called or red-earth cabinet coalition (punamulta/ rödmylla) with the SDP, or a right leaning governmental coalition with what seems to be the election’s main losers, the Kok/ Saml of PM Alexander Stubb. None of these two cabinet constellations will be sufficiently solid, and the question remains if the Kesk/ C will turn to the PS/ SF as a third coalition partner or opt for the traditionally Finnish model of cabinets with surplus parties? A word of caution, however, comes from further afield. In Hungary, the populist radical right Hungarian Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik/ Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom) has won the by-elections in the Tapolca-Ajka-Sümeg district on 12 April. The victory of the Jobbik representative in front of the conservatives’ candidate of PM Viktor Orbán in these by-elections are indicated as evidence that formally distancing from the populist radical right, whilst co-opting its strategies is a losing game.

With this in mind, returning to the post-election political landscape in Finland, one can wonder how are the cabinet negotiations going to unfold, if the Kesk/ C is indeed to be confirmed as the largest party in the upcoming elections Sunday 19 April? Will the SDP be willing to erode further is electoral base and to form the backbone of a red-earth government together with the Kesk/ C? Is the Kesk/ C going to seriously pursue a governmental constellation with the PS/ SF? At what costs, considering that both the Left Alliance (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet/ Vf) and the Greens (Vihr/ Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet/ G) have articulated a clear anti-xenophobic and anti-racist alternative? What will happen to Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP), given the fact that the party managed to be in all governments since 1979? Will the SFP/ RKP accept partaking in a governing coalition together with the PS/ SF, despite their outspoken stance against Finland’s bilingualism and the vitrolic attacks agains the Swedish-speakers by the various PS/ SF rank and file? Above all, considering the rather bleak economic perspectives that Finland is facing, how much of the nativist and xenophobic rhetoric of the PS/ SF is going to be tolerated at the negotiation table?

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Friday, April 17th, 2015 Research No Comments