Brace Yourselves for the Storm: the 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Romania under the Sign of Radical Right Populism
There is little doubt that the mainstream political scene in Romania is presently undergoing some dramatic convulsions. The current affairs have come to be compared by foreign and native political analysts alike, matter-of-factly, with the equally tumultuous period that Romanian witnessed during the early 1990s. Indeed, besides the ideological polarization specific to the eve of such important political confrontation as the Parliamentary elections (scheduled for December 9th 2012), the tone and manner of political discourse in Romania has witnessed a return to a level that many have hoped it was a thing of the past. In this context, these elections appear to be taking place under the sign of radical right populist discourse, which seems to come also from established political entities with a different ideological profile, not only the now consecrated radical right populist parties – and in here I refer to the Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) – and some newcomers – the previously discussed Popular Party–Dan Diaconescu (PP–DD/ Partidul Popular–Dan Diaconescu).
In this context, several political events are illustrative of the said political climate. These are, in approximately chronological order: first, Dan Diaconescu’s surprising participation in the (by now failed) privatization process that the largest petrochemical companies in Romania (namely Oltchim) and in Central and Eastern Europe had undergone this September. No matter how perplexing this might sound, but Dan Diaconescu (PP–DD) has participated in the Oltchim privatization as a private person and declared he is motivated by his desire to return such a national asset back to its rightful owners: ‘the Romanian people‘. Even more perplexing, Diaconescu has later been declared the winner of the privatization bid and were to assume control over the Oltchim shortly thereof. Diaconescu played his role of being the ‘Saviour on a white horse’ (as labelled in newspapers; in Romanian, aici) very well. Despite accusations that he did not have the financial resources to perfect the privatization (accusations that are yet to be proven in court), he eventually presented no less than 1,8 million EUR in cash (several sacks allegedly filled with money had been transported in front of the Ministry of Economy in Bucharest, which was widely discussed in media; in Romanian, aici) to pay for the privatization. In this context, in decidedly populist manner, Diaconescu claimed that the sacks of money he brought to the Ministry of Economy were in fact destined ‘to pay the salaries of Oltchim workers’ (which have not received their salaried rights for several months). The governing coalition landed in a very ungrateful situation: mismanaging a significant privatization process, and coming out humiliated in such a populist manner by Diaconescu. The event signalled that the Romanian Social Democrats (PSD/ Partidul Social Democrat) are going to encounter a serious competitor in the PP–DD in their appeal for the support of Romanian working class. The few traditionally social-democratic policies implemented since the cabinet Ponta assumed office earlier this year are apparently going to be counteracted by a reputable adversary, which is versed in using the populist rhetoric.
Second, the more recent announcement that George (Gigi) Becali – former leader of a minuscule radical right populist party, the New Generation Party–Christian Democrat (PNG–CD/ Partidul Noua Generaţie–Creştin Democrat), and elected EMP on the PRM list – will be joining the ranks of the National Liberal Party (PNL/ Partidul Naţional Liberal). Becali was later confirmed as the PNL candidate for a deputy seat on the common list of the Social Liberal Union (USL/ Uniunea Social Liberală). The USL consisting of, as previously mentioned, the PM Victor Ponta’s and their allies the Center Right Alliance, which reunites the PNL and the Conservative Party (PC/ Partidul Conservator). The fact that Becali has joined the PNL and has immediately received an eligible place on behalf of the party on the USL list for the Lower Chamber (Camera Deputaților) has determined several commentators to wonder if this was the wisest political move the PNL could have done at present, just weeks from the Oltchim privatization in which it was heavily involved. Even more so, there are serious question marks on how compatible is the PNL’s self–declared subscription to liberalism with Becali’s blatantly xenophobic, homophobic and sexist misogynistic remarks (in Romanian, aici). Some others have seen in this just another case of a nouveau riche purchasing himself an eligible parliamentary seat on the lists of a respectable party, and wondered if the PNL would actually survive past this electoral cycle (in Romanian, aici).
Right of centre on the political spectrum, the conservative Democratic Liberal Party (PDL/ Partidul Democrat-Liberal) announced to have crafted a political alliance together with the Civic Force (FC/ Forța Civică), the pocket–party of former-PM Ungureanu, and a faction of the Christian-Democratic National Peasants’ Party (PNT–CD/ Partidul Naţional Ţărănesc–Creştin Democrat). The alliance is titled the Right (or Just) Romania Alliance (ARD/ Alianța România Dreaptă) (in Romanian, aici). Among the main figures of the new alliance, Adrian Papahagi, the Vice-president of the Christian–Democrat Foundation has succeed to draw the public outrage through a xenophobic, homophobic and sexist remark, which he posted on his Facebook profile. Expressing displeasure with the acting PM Ponta and his rather chaotic months of premiership (the plagiarism scandal, which is still pending a definitive decision, the forceful change of chiefs of institutions, and the failed attempt to depose the acting President Traian Basescu, to name just a few) Papahagi argued that: “After all, if we have reached that stage to have prime minister who is a plagiarist, and a putschist and Guevarist, why shouldn’t we soon have as President a Roma lesbian atheist.” It is highly troublesome how plagiarism, intrigue–making and ideological radicalism could easily lead, what according to Papahagi was the image of absolute Alterity – yet another Evil Other – manifest in Romanian politics: a Roma (thus not Romanian, but the most discriminated ethnic minority in Romania, thereby indicating the total reversal of the ‘normal’ hierarchy of values); lesbian (thus, not only less than man – read woman – but also sexually deviant from the heteropatriachal norm); atheist (thus, not Romanian Christian Orthodox, deviating from the allegedly one and only true way of being Romanian, and a Romanian President at it). His statement was quickly sanctioned (both original quote and the reaction to it, in Romanian, aici). Papahagi reacted swiftly by labelling his critics as “commissars”. The word reminds both of the feared Russian “commissars” of USSR, but also closer to our present days, of the epithet usually employed by the radical right populist leader Tudor (PRM) to describe one of his female adversaries (Zoe Petre) – perhaps unsurprisingly one of Papahagi’s critics is a woman (Alina Mungiu–Pippidi) (in Romanian, aici).
Finally, the PRM leader’s return to his previous anti-Semitic discourse, manifest this time through a reiterated denial of the Holocaust in Romania, and thereby lending support to a PSD member, incumbent Minister of Relations with the Parliament in the Ponta cabinet. Indeed, the PRM leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, did not fail to disappoint and delivered another anti-Semitic rant. Commenting on the issue of Holocaust in Romania, and the active participation of Romanian forces in the mass killing of Jews on Romanian soil, Tudor argued that no Romanians have ever been involved into the killings, rather they have been victims of the Holocaust themselves, together with the Jews and Romani (in Romanian, aici). Tudor defended in this context Dan Șova (PSD), now incumbent Minister of Relations with the Parliament in the Ponta cabinet. In March this year, Șova, then newly appointed PSD spokesperson, argued that “no Jew suffered on Romanian territory, thanks to marshal Antonescu”, causing widespread outrage – despite expressing regret that his statement has been misunderstood, Șova has refused to apologize (in English, here).
This leaves way to a lot of questions with regard to the coming Parliamentary elections: is the Romanian political mainstream taking the road of populist xenophobic extremism? Will there be any place for a debate about viable competing solutions for the country’s economic recovery between the left (i.e. the PSD, perhaps much watered down as a result of the USL electoral alliance) and the right (perhaps in this case it would be the PDL, and their ARD centre–right conservative alliance)? Is the Romanian political mainstream, in general, becoming permeated by radical right populism, with an increasing number of mainstream parties succumbing to xenophobia, homophobia, and submission to heteropatriarchism? Is it of any help to reflect how the main political forces in Romanian plan to address the serious democratic deficit the country is witnessing (Romania has one of the lowest percentage of women involved actively in mainstream politics from the whole EU)? Why would be of any importance if any woman active in Romanian politics, would be of Roma origin or from any other ethnic minority, or if she would be a lesbian, or a professed atheist?
In an attempt to ease the understanding of the various abbreviations present within the present post, I attach herein a succinct presentation of the main political parties and their electoral results in the Romanian Parliamentary elections between 1996 and 2008. For this purpose, I made use of the European Election Database (EED) that has been compiled by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD/ Norsk samfunnsvitenskapelig datatjeneste). I do not have any copyright claims on the attached graph, which has been generated on the NSD–EED website containing information about Romania.
The total number of seats increased from 332 in 2004 to 334 in 2008. Seats: 316 (elected) + 18 assigned to ethnic minorities other than the Hungarians = 334.
2000: PSD ran as PDSR as Social Democratic Pole Alliance with PSDR
2001: PDSR merged with PSDR into PSD.
1996: PDL ran as part of Social Democratic Union (USD)
2000: PDL ran as PD
2004: PDL as part of Justice and Truth Alliance (DA: PNL-PD)
2004: PNGCD ran as PNG
1996: PNL ran as part of Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR)
2004: PNL ran as part of Justice and Truth Alliance (DA: PNL-PD)
Reality Check in Romania: A True (Orthodox) Romanian Man Explains Why ‘an Arab’ Cannot Be the Catalyst of the Disenchanted People Marching Against State Abuse.
A bit over a year ago, the people took to the streets in several countries across the ‘Arab world’ in what was later on called the ‘Arab Spring’. The Western medias have rushed to praise the people’s ‘democratic aspirations’ and their courage to speak against a brutified state apparatus. In contrast to that, in the UK the 2010 protests against the massive increase of the tuition fees and the 2011 anti-austerity protests were not met with the same sympathy. Demands for transparent and accountable democratic processes that have people at the center – instead of profit – were dismissed as ‘rioting’, ‘extremist’, ‘thuggish’ and ‘outright criminal’. In a similar vein, unfortunately, the massive protests witnessed these days in Romania, not only in the capital Bucharest but across the whole country, are derided in a similar manner. Reports mainly discuss the ‘football hooligans’, ‘mindless rioting’, ‘extremism’ or even ‘street warfare’ (in Romanian, aici).
A week ago, an apparently inconspicuous law triggering the profound reform of the healthcare system was uncovered to be a naked demonstration of political will on behalf of the acting center-right conservative government. Instead of being yet another law coming into force through the back door of a confidence vote in the Romanian Parliament, it was publicly condemned in a TV debate by Raed Arafat, the then Undersecretary of State for Health. Arafat, a Syrian Arab that has become a Romanian citizen, has distinguished himself by successfully founding the only professional emergency rescue service in Romania (SMURD/ Serviciul Mobil de Urgenţǎ, Reanimare şi Descarcerare), thereby embodying professionalism and moral standing in a healthcare system that is mostly regarded as book-example of corruption and oftentimes considered an expressway to the grave. Arafat’s opposition to the coming law was vehemently criticized and quickly dismissed by an angered President Băsescu, who called and demanded to intervene in the live TV debate. President Băsescu labeled Arafat’s criticism to the privatization of the healthcare system as mere ‘leftist views’ and decreed the necessity of opening the system to ‘the market forces’ (in Romanian, aici). The consequence of such a forceful televised intervention on behalf of President Băsescu was that Arafat presented his resignation shortly afterwards.
His resignation was met with popular indignation and triggered a series of demonstrations across the whole of Romania, from Târgu Mureș/ Marosvásárhely where Arafat founded SMURD and Cluj-Napoca/ Kolozsvár in Transylvania, to Constanța on the Romanian seaside and the capital Bucharest. The protests were initiated on January 12th 2012 in Târgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely as a non-violent demonstration in support of Arafat, and transformed in full fledged popular protests across the country in the coming days, continuing throughout the week and eventually gained the support of 5 trade union organizations. The riot police and the gendarmerie have been called to intervene in Bucharest and elsewhere under the pretext of ‘maintaining order’ and combating ‘the extremism’ of ‘paid football hooligans’ (in Romanian ‘ultras‘) and other such ‘elements’ (in English, here; here; and here; in Romanian, aici and aici).
Perhaps it is worthwhile to take a step back, and have a closer look at what does such a label of ‘extremism’ conceal. ‘Extremism’ is not represented by the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters that have had enough of a corrupt and idle political system that does not offer so much of a political alternative, but an alternation of the same unreformed political forces. Arguably, it is rather to be found impeccably dressed and allegedly representing Romania in the European Parliament.
Indeed, commenting on the ongoing demonstrations, George (Gigi) Becali, Romanian MEP on behalf of the radical right populist Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) and football club owner, defended President Băsescu. MEP Becali expressed his ‘disgust’ that thousand of Romanians have taken the streets in support of ‘an Arab’ against President Băsescu. MEP Becali added, in the same vein, that Romanians are not allowed to take the ‘Arab’s side’ on this matter and that the TV images with the demonstrators were ‘sickening’. He then concluded that ‘Arafat should go back to his country, among his Arabs! How can I take the side of an Arab against the President of my country?’ (in Romanian, aici).
In this context, the question that comes to the fore is why someone who has become a Romanian citizen is dismissed as a simple Other and recommended to return to his (or her) ‘home country’? What does it take for an Other to be accepted as a full-fledged Romanian citizen? Even more so, why ‘the Arab’ Arafat is refused the ability to coalesce popular dissatisfaction against a corrupt political system? The irony of history perhaps, but Arafat simply represents a continuation of the line of Others that triggered the coagulation of the people’s discontent in Romania. Here it suffices to mention another key figure in Romanian recent history: Pastor László Tőkés – a Romanian of Hungarian ethnicity and a Reformed Pastor. Pastor Tőkés played a major role in the initiation in Timișoara/ Temesvár of the December 1989 manifestations that led to the overthrown of Ceausescu dictatorship. In the manly confrontation that Romanian politics have turned into in the post-revolutionary period, why is Arafat deemed less than a man that President Băsescu? Since when the protection of a corrupt political system and taking the side of a Romanian President that has oftentimes stepped over the powers of his mandate is a clear marker of devotion for the country? MEP Becali defied the Romanian National Council for Fighting Discrimination (CNCD/ Consiliul Naţional pentru Combaterea Discriminării) and argued more recently that no possible fine would deter him from taking the side of ‘Romanians’ (in Romanian, aici). The immediate question that comes to mind is why is then President Băsescu more Romanian than the tens of thousands of Romanians (be them ethnic Romanian, Hungarian, Rroma, or even Arab) that have peacefully demonstrated against a state apparatus and a political elite that appears to have become just as brutish as the ones that ruled so ruthlessly in the ‘Arab world’?
CfP: 10th Conference of European Sociology Association – Stream Gender and Politics (07-10.09.2011 Geneva, Switzerland); DL: 25.02.2011
Joint Session RN32 Political Sociology/ RN 33 Women’s and Gender Studies
Gendered Exclusion in Uncertain Times – (Post)Multiculturalism, Denizenship and Radicalism in Europe
The first decade of the third millennium appears to epitomize a turbulent times: the September 11th suicide attacks, the global economic meltdown, the rise of radical right populist parties across Europe, and the ever louder critical voices against multiculturalism. These are just some examples among many other political developments that shape the debate around discursive exclusionary projects and the calls for forging a common national/ European project around issues of shared identity and cultural homogeneity in turbulent times.
Paramount to all these concepts are the preoccupation with maintaining an illusory unity and the ever growing demographic panic, coupled with the fear of cultural dilution, which are used to justify an ever closer policing of hierarchies, borders and bodies. These fleshes out problems raised by a type of “second class of citizenship” projected onto immediate “Others”, based on differences of gender and sexual orientation, of class, religion, ethnicity and “race”. Distinctions and borders are construed around these dimensions, and keeping the so constructed categories apart is a constant discursive disciplinary preoccupation. Gendered hierarchies are elaborated to enforce heteronormative patriarchies as sole domains of intelligibility. In this context, fears of masculine feebleness or sexual deviancy, thus failure to accomplish the task of national reproduction, are seconded by that of national dilution – of allowing native women to interact with male immigrant “Others”. Concomitantly, the feminine “Others” are projected in terms of oppressed subjects that need the European civilizatory help in order to break free from aged patriarchal oppression.
With this in mind, authors are encouraged to submit abstracts for papers/ presentations investigating the apparently dichotomous distinction that separates the gendered categories of “Us” as opposed to “Others” in present Europe.
Chair: Ov Cristian Norocel (University of Helsinki/ Stockholm University)
For more information on the respective RN 32 Political Sociology and RN 33 Women’s and Gender Studies check also the conference website bellow.
Abstracts should be submitted to http://www.esa10thconference.com/ . Important note: In order to submit your abstract, you need to register as a participant. When submitting you abstract, you need to choose RN 32 from the drop down menu referring to Topic, then the Gender and Politics Stream.
KEY DATES FOR ABSTRACT SUBMISSION
10th January 2011 Opening of Abstract Submission
25th February 2011 Closing of Abstract Submission
6th April 2011 Decisions on acceptance of abstracts by RN coordinators and RS conveners relayed to paper-givers and also relayed to the Conference Organizer in Geneva
20th April 2011 Programme of papers for each sessions sent by RN coordinators and RS conveners to the Local Committee.
Cyber-defenders of National Pride? On Romania’s bad reputation abroad, and the discrimination of Romanians and Romas alike
Without doubt, Romania and Romanians seem to have a rather tarnished reputation in Europe. Especially the European medias do not spare any criticism when it comes to describing the country’s problematic development and its citizens’ misdemeanors. Throughout the years, British readers have been warned of the flood of Romanian immigrants that will take over the British isles once the country joined the EU. The Italians were informed that Romanians are but beggars that have rape and assault in their genes, and more recently Danish and Norwegian newspapers reached the same conclusion about the Romanians’ inherent violence from the brutal assassination of a Norwegian air hostess at the hands of a Romanian citizen, in an hotel room in central Copenhagen. Such rushed conclusions raise some serious questions about how much do the medias in Europe really know about Romania.
And to add insult to injury, no one seems to pay attention to the distinction between Romania and its citizens, generally called Romanians, and the Romani people (also known under the derogatory name of ‘Gypsies’). Indeed, some of the Romani people now present across Europe may come from Romania (there were 535,140 Romani registered in the 2002 census; link in Romanian). But they may be as well from Hungary (some 205,720, according to the 2001 census), Slovakia or any other Central and Eastern European country that has/had a significant Romani population and has an anti-Roma record (ranging from forced sterilizations and forced expulsions from local communities, to violent killings of Romani people). Such treatments are unfortunately widespread across the region.
The equation of Romanians with Romani people and the subsequent discrimination of both groups has become a common occurrence across “Old” Europe. Most recent in France, where even the institutions supposed to combat discrimination and racism fail to act even when this takes place on the public television. Such an example is the performance of Jonathan Lambert on France 2 on April 17th. At the end of the “On n’est pas couchés” show where he was invited, he chose a rather peculiar way to express his gratitude in the sense of “performing” the so-called “salut roumain”/”Romanian salute” (link in French). The gesture mocked Romanians- the hand trusted forward with the open palm typical for begging. The public imitated Lambert’s gesture in a manner that made most believe it was not a spontaneous move, but a rather well rehearsed act.
However, besides official complaints issued by the various Romanian embassies there is a new trend of what I call cyber-nationalism. If official statements may be regarded as ineffective and easily overruled by the media “perpetrating” the anti-Romanian offenses, the cyber-defenders of Romanian dignity act against the very presence of the medias on the internet. The Romanian cyber-nationalists, labeled “hacktivists” by the very media they threaten with their acts, seem to have coagulated into a group suggestively called Romanian National Security [RNS]. Witness the globalization pressures and the localist-nationalist aspirations, the group’s name is in English while their messages are to most part written in Romanian.
Their anger and cyber skills became apparent to the whole world when a Daily Telegraph third-party website was defaced on April 14th 2010. The text, mainly in Romanian, read:
“We are tired of watching how some ‘scum’ like you mock our country. The way you portray us, which has nothing to do with the reality, and how you name-call us ‘Romanian Gypsies’ and airing such s*ite shows as TopGear. For having the guts to piss of a whole country, be aware that we won’t stop here!” and added in English “Guess what, gypsies aren’t Romanians, morons.”
The TopGear reference concerns the first episode of the series’ 14th season, which follows the TopGear team in its quest to locate and drive along one of most picturesque roads in Romania, the so-called “Transfăgărăşan”. The mentioned episode is a classical example of journalistic “faux pas” being filled with unflattering remarks about the country and its people. On top of all there is the careless editing of the episode that contains a discussion apparently taking place somewhere in Romania. The dialogue is in a Slavic language and it infuriated Romanian viewers, evidencing the journalists’ unawareness of the various sensitivities at work in that part of Europe.
Mass media in France did not escape RNS’ attention either. Sunday, April 18th- only shortly after the France 2 show, it was the turn of Le monde’s website to be defaced. The more elaborate text, still in Romanian, took issue with the equation of Romanians to Romani people and the undignified reaction of French media in general to the “Romanian salute” affair:
“This is not a resistance movement, nor a protest, nor a rebellion! It is the cry of the whole Romanian people calling their brothers, who have forgot that Roman blood flows through or veins too! The blood spilled on battlefields so that our people’s history can be written urges now for JUSTICE. Our national heroes will never die! The memory of those who paid with their live so that Romania exists on the world’s map will never be forgotten. We want to proudly remind our children and our grandchildren of them and to give them the honor they deserve. We’ve had enough of mockery! The Gypsies are not Romanians! The have not written our history! When you make reference to our compatriots do not use such phrases as ‘Romanian Gypsies’.” The message is concluded with the warning “We have respected your French, you will respect our ROMANIA! RNS KEEPS GUARD for this to happen.”
According to an interview with one of the RNS members (link in Romanian), the 20-something group members do not know one another, but they are decided to signal that Romanians’ tolerance has been abused for too long. Described as a 17-year old man whose parents are also nationalists and who know and agree with his activities, the interviewee appears to live a “normal life” “preparing for his exams, grill parties at the weekend and dates with his girlfriend”. In a sign of civility the young man mentions that when defacing the websites RNS abstained from collecting sensitive personal information from the websites, or infecting the computers of both editors and readers accessing the web-pages. In other words they signaled of not being mere “hackers” but people animated by a national ideal and passionate about computers. Even more intriguing is his attempt to absolve RNS from any accusation of racism, apologizing to “all Romani people that live a honest life and are know the value of honest work, and respect”. So the “Gypsies” that the texts made reference to are, by contrast those who do not live a honest life, begging and pickpocketing in the streets of European cities, though it is rather difficult to assess if the Romani people in question had any choice in living such a life. The two messages and the interview are saturated with a rather romantic take on nationalism, remembering proud and upright masculinities, war heroes and civilized citizens alike, as opposed to the “Gypsies” that the authors want to distance from themselves and the entire Romanian nation.
Unfortunately, what the cyber-nationalists from the Romanian National Security group managed to do, was not only to draw attention on the stereotypical presentation of Romanians as beggars in European press, but also to point at the naturalized discrimination of Romani people that occurs both in Romania, but also across the EU. In their attempt to restore the dignity of Romanians they seem to have silenced the extreme discrimination and stereotyping experienced by the Romani people. Indeed, if Romania’s reputation is defended by dedicated hackers, who is willing to demand action for the integration of Romani people in the European societies? How stringent is the need to distinguish between Romanians, as in citizens of Romania (regardless of their ethnic belonging, i.e. Romanians, Hungarians, Romani people, etc), and Romani people? Can Romani people born in Romania called themselves and be called Romanians? How will RNS’ actions will impact on the situation of the Romani people?
UPDATE: Workshop at XLII Annual FPSA (11.03.2010 University of Helsinki, Helsinki/ Helsingfors Finland)
The workshop titled Can Others Become Part of Us? Questions of National (Im)Purity, which I have organized for XLII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association (FPSA, conference web-page in English, here), will be taking place at the University of Helsinki on 11.03.2010 in Helsinki/ Helsingfors Finland. The workshop is scheduled to take place at the University of Helsinki main building, Fabianinkatu 33/ Fabiansgatan 33, Room 4 (3rd floor).
The following papers are scheduled to be presented within the workshop (the language of the workshop panel will be English):
1. Indigenous Subjectivity Challenging Ethnic Particularity
Tanja Joona (University of Lapland) (details in English, here)
Sanna Valkonen (University of Lapland) (details in Finnish, tässä)
The Sámi have constructed national unity since 1950’s by creating their own political institutions and by defining the Sámi symbols and cultural features. Since 1970’s the Sámi unity and subjectivity have been constructed as an indigenous people. The indigenous Sámi discourse is connected to the crowing awareness and political activity of the indigenous peoples globally and to the strengthening of their international position. Nowadays the Sámi of Finland have a constitutionally recognized position as an indigenous people, and they have a cultural autonomy in an area situated in the Northernmost Finland, e.g. Sámi Homeland. The cultural autonomy is implemented by the Sámi parliament. A Sámi definition of the Sámi Act defines the legal Sámi subjects legitimate for instance to vote in the Sámi elections. However, striving to define the Sámi subjects has caused protection of Sámi cultural purity in a situation in which most of the Sámi don’t live in a traditional Sámi way anymore.
Our presentation deals with the problematic related to the indigenous subjectivity both from the viewpoint the ILO convention no. 169, which is the most important international treaty concerning the indigenous peoples, and also from the “Sámi viewpoint”. We examine the ambiguous practices of ethnic and indigenous lining and labeling in regard to an empirical example of so called “Lapp discussion”. The concept “Lapp” refers to people who are no longer recognized as Sámi among the Sámi but who descent from the original/indigenous inhabitants of the region and are thus potential indigenous subjects and right holders according to national and international law.
Keywords: Sámi, Lapp, ILO Convention, subjectivity, ethnicity, indigenous people.
2. Orchestrating Integration into Finnishness. Top-down Representations of National Identity through Discourses of Othering in Media, Parliamentary Debates and Legislative Documents
Niko Pyrhönen (CEREN, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)
European regimes of immigration law, especially in the Nordic welfare countries, are often understood as being increasingly constrained by the international discourse of human-rights and free mobility stressed in treaties of the European Union. I argue, however, that nation-specific identity constructions and the subsequent considerations for political prudentiality play a major part in the formulation and evaluation of policy programmes for regulating immigration and organizing immigrant integration. This is particularly true in Finland, underlined by the fact that a markedly heated political debate has evolved over the phenomenon, even though the country has experienced levels of immigration significantly below that of EU-15 countries.
In my paper, I examine the Finnish Integration Acts of 1999 and 2009 and the Foreigner Act of 2004 in order to assess how Finnishness is reconstructed through a legislative discourse of Othering as presented on three different levels.
Keywords: immigration, integration legislation, national identity, othering.
3. Defending Romanianness and Heteropatriarchy. Masculinity Metaphors in Romanian Radical Right Populism
Ov Cristian Norocel (University of Helsinki)
The present paper investigates the recent history of the Romanian family as a heteropatriarchal matrix for metaphors of masculinity at the beginning of the 21st century, as it is heralded by the main radical right populist party Greater Romania Party (Partidul România Mare, PRM). Focusing on Greater Romania Magazine (RRM, Revista România Mare) – the party’s main media outlet- the analysis focuses on PRM leader’s editorials during a well defined timeframe in recent history of Romanian radical right populism, from the preparations for presidential elections in 2000, which witnessed PRM leader’s surprising run off, through the subsequent presidential elections in 2004, and up EU Parliamentary elections in 2009, that enabled PRM to send three representatives to European Parliament.
The staunchly restrictive definition of the family, portrayed as the exclusive heteronormative domain of the Romanian male, has developed across time with the help of the NATION IS A FAMILY and the STRICT FATHER conceptual metaphors to proscribe the existence of family narratives including ethnically diverse or any sexually different Others. The article accounts for the discursive (re-)definitions of Romanianness enabled by conceptual metaphors so that to accommodate centrally located heterosexist masculinities, and underlines the need for further explorations of the radical right populist narratives of Romanian purity.
Keywords: conceptual metaphors, heteropatriarchal family, masculinities, radical right populism, Romanian purity.
In times of economic insecurity, or simply of general uncertainty, the parties that manage to make the most of it are the radical right populist parties (RRP). With a rhetoric lambasting at the too liberal immigration policies, too expensive services provided to minorities or language communities, they manage to paint a picture of economic distress. Things need to be put in order, rationalized, according to some efficiency logic that usually is aimed to disadvantage those groups perceived to have “exploited” the system for their own gain, and restore the state, and implicitly its expenses to the common people.
For instance in Finland, the last meeting of the youth arm of the True Finns (PS-n/Perussuomalaiset-nuoret/Sannfinländarnas ungdomsorganisation ) witnessed the return to the bellicose rhetoric against the Swedish-speaking Finns and Swedish language(which has equal standing together with Finnish as one of the official languages of the country). According to them, the Swedish-speaking Finns are demanding too much proportionally to their population’s size (approximately 5.4% of the whole population of Finland), and that if it is about the state providing services in Swedish, then the Swedish-speaking community itself should provide them. Why? Well, it was ascertained it costs too much, though it was not really clear how economic streamlining could so evidently deprive a serious percentage of the population of services they are entitled to by law and guaranteed by the Finnish constitution. And if this was not a statement persuasive enough, then the argument put forward was a bit more simple: to provide services in another language than Finnish, is actually un-Finnish. Why, again? The discussion about the status of Swedish as a national language was strangely connect to betrayal of Finland. More clearly, having Swedish as the second national language may at anytime give the opportunity to the increasing Russian minority to demand the same status for Russian. This could lead to the hypothetical situation of Finland being transformed into a country with three official languages.
However, looking a bit closer at the official numbers provided by Statistics Finland (Tilastokeskus/ Statistikcentralen), one may notice that of the whole Finnish population, 4,844,047 of them are Finnish-speaking Finns, followed by 289,951 persons being Swedish-speaking Finns. How many Russian speakers are in Finland? They are some 48,740 strong, or in other words some 1% of the Finnish-speaking population, and even less of the overall population of Finland. How can the Russian community be used as a threat to the Finnish majority? Does PS-n attempt to portray a future for the Finnish-speakers as a “threatened majority”, that needs to be suspicious of its own, homegrown Other- the Swedish-speakers-, but also keep an eye on the ever increasing outside Other- the Russian-speakers? Even more interesting it was one of the participant’s comment that the Swedish-speaking Finns are planning to “join forces” with the un-Finns. Does it sound like the classical reasoning of the inner Other plotting with the outside Other to demise the righteous and the True? Will this suffice for ensuring PS‘s success in the next elections, considering that the readily identified solution is turning Swedish into a minority language, and watching its exile to the peripheries of Finnish society together with the Sami language, and the Romani language?
On the other side of Gulf of Bothnia, in Sweden, the Sweden Democrats (SD/Sverigedemokraterna) held their party convention in Ljungbyhed in Klippans commune in Scania province. The province is the main voting reservoir for SD, and in the aforementioned commune, SD received some 7.5% of the votes for the local council. During the convention, Jimmy Åkesson was confirmed his leadership position. Statistically, SD cannot pride itself with too impressive numbers: in the most recent elections for the representative in the Swedish Lutheran Church the party pooled 2.84% and increased from 4 to 7 mandates, which was duly dismissed as a setback by mainstream commentators.
For most of SD‘s existence as a political force in Sweden, it has been at best ignored, if not purposefully isolated by other political and social actors. The media boycott of even the main yellow press paper in Swede (Aftonbladet), left room to the isolation of SD council representatives in communes across Sweden. It was later revealed that the party representatives’ isolation is not waterproof, and that little by little they come to be tolerated, if not accepted by representatives of other parties. However, this prolonged and consistent isolation allowed SD to play the role of the martyr. This may have serious implication for the shape of the political scene in Sweden, with parliamentary elections being scheduled for 2010. Some have even ventured to argue that SD may become the kingmakers of the coming Swedish Cabinet. SD‘s central topic for the coming elections appears to be a call to a stop of the immigration, so that to ensure the protection of the Swedish workers from outer competitors, and a return of the welfare state before the turn of the century.
Interestingly, Aftonbladet decided to publish an opinion piece authored by Åkesson this week, a first in the mainstream media. The piece, which is basically a critique of the present immigration policy in Sweden, with rather grave accusations against the Muslim community in Sweden, identified as the main Evil Other in the RRP tradition (this has already a history in countries like Denmark, Austria, and The Netherlands, to name just a random few), was met with uproar. The article is a Swedish adaptation of the widely popular RRP theory of Eurabia,i.e. the danger posited to European culture and national specificity by an ever growing and menacing Muslim minority.
Even before being more closely discussed, SD, in general, and Åkesson’s peice in particular were hastily labeled as “racist”. More worrisome, it was revealed that Aftonbladet, not Åkesson, chose the fiery title that read: “The Muslims are our greatest enemy”. One can only wonder who benefits from over-using “racism”, and the concept entering the banality of daily life? Should not the main political attempt to engage in a punctual debate with SD? Is it be too painful to admit that not even Sweden remained untouched by the RRP waves that sweep Europe?
On a more general level, the most pressing questions are how the mainstream parties, in particular with regard to the electoral competition and the post-electoral parliamentary alliance building processes, and the societies, in general, will react to the constant ascension of the aforementioned parties? Ignoring them and exiling them to the peripheries is no longer actual, not even in Sweden. On the other hand, the increased visibility of such parties may be accompanied by the sudden rise to prominence on the agenda of mainstream parties of precisely this kind of issues.
Swedish language is an integral part of Finland, but it needs the decided commitment of all Finnish political parties (former president Ahtisaari’s plea for Swedish language in Finland is an excellent example of that). Healthy debates about such topics as language policies, regional development according to the interests of all language groups, and the opportunity of accommodating to an increasing immigrant population in Finland, need to be discussed openly, and it is necessary to argue against PS ‘s overt simplifications and menacing portrayal of the Other. At the same time, the topic of meaningful integration of immigrants, and the benefits of immigration for the whole society are highly actual in Sweden. These issues require at times engaging in a dialogue with such parties as PS and SD, not simply dismissing them for being RRP.
What is more important, however, is to be able to look for explanations behind manufactured statistics, and vitriolic rhetoric, and provide well balanced and honest insights into these subjects. But is not this one of the biggest challenges: to be able to explain that there is no Evil Other even in times of economic uncertainty, and that curiosity not fear should be the driving force of societies?
Johanna Kantola, Jemima Repo and I are currently working on a paper investigating violent masculinities and school shootings in Finland. Having the feminist research on domestic violence in Finland and critical studies of masculinities as starting points, we analyze the media construction of Finnish masculinities and femininities related to the school shootings. We particularly focus our discussion on the emerging dichotomy between the rational and responsible violence of men that the Finnish army embodies and the irrational, hatred based violence of the perpetrators of school shootings. This dichotomy effectively silences any substantial problematization of violence in the Finnish culture.
- December 2012
- October 2012
- June 2012
- April 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- October 2011
- September 2011
- July 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- June 2010
- April 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- October 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- February 2008
- Blogul Medusei (Romanian)
- Critic Atac (Romanian)
- 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
- Sociollogica (Romanian)
- XY- men, masculinities and gender politics