A Brave New World? The Victory of the True Finns: A Return to Patriarchal Arch-Conservative Parochialism?
After the preliminary results of the 17 April 2011 Finnish parliamentary elections were announced (the final results may be announced on the 20 April 2011, after the recount of the votes), it became obvious that the agrarian Kesk was heading towards a painful loss, pooling only 15.8% of the votes and thus sending only 35 representatives to the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen. This determined former PM Mari Kiviniemi to comment that the Kesk needs to prepare for a mandate in the opposition. A similar argument was put forward by the Vihr’s chairwomen Anni Sinnemäki, because of the party’s performance (it lost 5 MPs).
Jyrki Katainen, the Kok leader and most probably the future Finnish PM, was threading very carefully last evening when it became clear that his party was heading to a historical victory. He acknowledged that the situation was a very difficult one, and that negotiations will be very though. Concomitantly he maintained that Finland will continue its pro-European course (on BBC News, here). The other winning party of last night’s elections, the SDP voiced though its chairwoman Jutta Urpilainen their interest in being involved with the governing act. Urpilainen added that since the PS has been scoring so high in the voters’ preferences, the party should be invited to the government-coalition talks. Interestingly, Timo Soini of the PS, took a rather strong stance, arguing he would not negotiate on the other parties’ terms but on his own, adding that one option would be that the PS to recruit its ministers from outside the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen (in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).
Together the three parties (Kok, SDP, PS) will have some 125 MPs, a relatively secure majority. Nonetheless, if to strive to have past the 130MPs and thus avoid unexpected opposition from their own rank and file, the new government would need to be enlarged to incorporate another, small party. Which one will this be? There are two separate options that indicate, even if only tentatively, the road Finland would engage on.
One option would be to co-opt the KD, which nowadays lies very close to the PS in terms of social values (a staunch patriarchal conservatism has been defining the new KD, since Päivi Räsänen assumed leadership of the party). However, this would sum up to only 131 MPs, and this raises the question if the Kok will agree with such an arch-conservative swing?
A second option – which was already formally dismissed by Timo Soini today (in Finnish, tässä) – would be to co-opt the SFP/ RKP in the new government. The party has succeeded so far to represent in the government the interests of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland since 1979. The coalition (Kok, SDP, PS, SFP/ RKP) would have 134 MPs, a safe majority.Having in mind that the Kok and SFP/ RKP are both pro-European and have a relatively liberal agenda will the Kok, in this context force the presence of the SFP/ RKP in the new government, and thus ensure a balance to the PS? So far the SDP has been in favour of the PS in government, but also defended the rights of the Swedish-speaking minority. How would this materialize in the governmental negotiations? Will the SDP and Kok defend the country’s bilingualism and resist the PS’ demands to do away with SFP/ RKP as a coalition partner and in time eventually turn Finland into a monolingual polity?
Women in the Finnish Parliament: At least there are some?
The 2011-2015 mandates for the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen appear to be divided between men (57%) and women (43%) so that it slightly favours men (updated continuously, numbers may change; link in Finnish, tässä). Nonetheless, at a closer look there are big discrepancies between the parties. According the preliminary results posted on 18 April 2011, the PS has 11 women MPs out of a total of 39 (only 28.2%). This is a rather low percentage – compare it to the 5 women MPs out of the total of 9 that the SFP/ RKP has; the 6 women out of 14 MPs that the Vas, or the 5 women MPs out of the 10 MPs that the Vihr got into the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen – and reflects the PS’ overall view on the role of women in the Finnish society. This may be interpreted as a threatening sign for the ‘state-feminism’, which characterized Finland and its welfare system for the past decades. Furthermore, the PS is deeply conservative when it comes to such issues (anti-abortion stance, vociferously against gay marriages and gay adoptions), and the question that comes up is how will women’s issues and the topic of gender equality and anti-discrimination issues in general be handled by the coming cabinet?
Espousing Anti-Immigration Opinions from a Ministerial Post?
There is a lot of speculation about the coming government, and there are a lot of people wondering who is going to land in which ministerial post? If the PS is decided to negotiate from a firm position as Timo Soini has said, is there to be expected that a PS party member will land the position of Minister of Migration and European Affairs? Will Jussi Halla-aho‘s expressed will (in Swedish, här) to be named into the function be taken into consideration? Furthermore, one needs to bear in mind that Halla-aho was the PS vote magnet in the capital Helsinki/ Helsingfors and cumulated 14,884 individual votes (only Paavo Arhinmäki from Vas received more: 17,099 in this electoral district). Halla-aho distinguished himself through the very acid statements against Islam, and against immigration (especially against the Somali refugees) in general. He has been tried in 2009 on charges of incitement against an ethnic group and breach of the sanctity of religion. He was eventually convicted for disturbing religious worship, and ordered to pay a fine (in Swedish, här); his firs appeal was rejected (in Swedish, här); the appeal to the Supreme Court resulted in a discharge of the accusation of incitement to ethnic hatred (in Finnish, tässä). In this context, what would the choice of Halla-aho as a minister in the future cabinet, and even more so, as a minister of integration, signal to the rest of the world?
Finnish parties in the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen listed alphabetically and their respective number of seats:
KD (Kristillisdemokraatit/Kristdemokraterna/ The Christian Democrats) 6 MPs
Kesk (Keskusta/ Centerpartiet/ The Center Party) 35 MPs
Kok (Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet/ The National Coalition Party)44 MPs
PS (Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ The True Finns) 39 MPs
SDP (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti/ The Social Democrats)42 MPs
SFP/RKP (Svenska folkpartiet/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue /The Swedish People’s Party) 9+1 MPs
Vas (Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet/ The Left Alliance) 14 MPs
Vihr (Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet/ The Greens) 10 MPs
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.
Call for Papers: Moulding Identity, Trust and Commitment in the Nordic Countries, at XLIII Annual FPSA (20-21.01.2011, University of Jyväskylä); DL: 03.12.2010
The 43rd Annual Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association Conference will be organized at the University of Jyväskylä, January 20-21 2011. The theme of the conference is Epäluulo ja demokratia/ Distrust and democracy.
The potential participants may send their abstracts (max. 150 words) to the workshop coordinator until 3 December 2010. The email address of the coordinator is listed at the end of the workshop’s description below.
Moulding Identity, Trust and Commitment in the Nordic Countries:
Balancing between Assimilation and Accommodation in the (Post)Multicultural World?
On October 17 2010, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that the “[multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed.” This is just one example among many other political developments that shape the debate around the discursive projection of “Us” and “Others” and the perceived need for forging a common national project around issues of common identity, trust and commitment. Among the Nordic countries, Denmark is oftentimes given as the most drastic example of change in its approach to immigration, while Sweden for quite some time was considered a progressive and liberal acme of immigration and integration policies. In Finland, despite the low level of immigration, an increasingly critical discourse to multiculturalism is monopolizing the public attention. Across the Nordic region, conflicting discourses highlight a desire for a further tightening of immigration control and assimilative demands at the same time with attempts for accommodative efforts. These discourses erect competing hierarchies of citizenship and valorization, underpinned by categories of gender and sexual identity, ethnicity, “race” and religion, in which “Others” are perpetually contained to a second class status.
With this in mind, authors are encouraged to submit papers assessing critically the emerging political climate and the calls for assimilation or for accommodation in the Nordic countries. Are the present demands for the tightening of integration policies or the outright call for more assertive assimilative efforts the signs of an imminent end of multiculturalism? Which political entities articulate such demands for action and how are these met by those groups they are aimed at? Analyses of how gender and sexuality, ethnicity, religion and “race” contribute or undermine the national(ist) projects in the Nordic countries in the new context are particularly welcomed.
The language of the workshop is English.
Keywords: accommodation and/or assimilation policies, immigration, (post)multiculturalism, national(ist) identity discourse(s), Nordic countries.
Ov Cristian Norocel
Department of Economic and Political Studies, University of Helsinki
It appears that the first decade of the third millennium, now nearing its end, was not under the most positive auspices for Finland. Especially with regard to public violence perpetrated by men in Finland, be them Finnish natives or “new” Finns, on other innocent citizens. To mention just those events that received a lot of media attention:
- Myyrmanni bombing in October 2002 in a shopping center located in Vantaa/Vanda, neighboring commune to the capital Helsinki/Helsingfors. The bomb killed 7 people and injured a total of 166.
- The school shootings in Jokela in November 2007, 9 were killed and 12 were injured. Less than a year later another school shooting shook Finland. In Kauhajoki in September 2008, 11 people were shot to death and 3 more were severely injured*.
- Today, 31 December 2009, just a few hours before the end of the year, a man shot and killed 5 innocent people. The gruesome event occurred in in Sello, one of the largest shopping malls in Finland, located in Espoo/Esbo, a commune neighboring the Finnish capital to the west. 4 people were executed at Prisma shop in Sello, while the other victim was shot in her home. From early police reports released by Finnish Public Broadcaster YLE (tässä/här/here), it seems that the gunman is of Kosovo Albanian origin and have resided in Finland for a long time.
A first thought that comes to mind is that the Finnish ideal of masculinity is undergoing a very unsettling stage. The constant pressure to comply with and fulfill the ideals of a heroic heteropatriachal masculinity, coupled by a tradition of gun ownership- not seriously kept in check by a rather lax gun law- intrinsically connect violence and Finnish masculinity in a deadly symbiosis.
A second comment pertains to the symbolical nature of these events that resemble strongly public executions. Innocent people, oftentimes mainly women, are targeted in cold blood, in what can be regarded as a public reassertion of the perpetrator’s masculinity. In other words, this very extreme manifestation of Finnish masculinity requires to be enacted, performed in front of terrified others and demands the irrational sacrifice of innocent bystanders. In this vein, the perpetrators’ last act is their own suicide, performed less publicly and more hurriedly, and thus ensuring they do have the last word.
A third, and necessary reflection comes up somewhat later. It was recently revealed that the author of the shooting in Sello is of a foreign background, namely of Kosovo Albanian origin (identified as Ibrahim Shkupolli). Will this be turned into a renewed interrogation of “irrational” Balcanic masculinity, and avoid the pressing need for reassessing the hegemonic Finnish masculinity? In the case of Myyrmanni, the perpetrator was an “unbalanced man”, in the case of Jokela, and especially Kauhajoki, the gunmen were labeled unstable mentally and “misfits” of the masculine norm. It seems that time and again, series of explanations and othered scapegoats are found and the main question is yet to be posed: What is the dominating ideal of Finnish masculinity and why is it umbilically connected to violence?
To conclude in a more interrogative tone, perhaps the decade to be inaugurated soon should be one to critically assess how traditional ideals of Finnish masculinity can enter a new phase, in which manly ideals are not underpinned by implicit reference to violence. Is Finland still haunted by its horrific experience of the WWII, or is this just an expedient explanation for much deeper and more serious traumas that are manifest in the Finnish culture in general?
* The issue of school shootings in Finland has received increased scholar attention. Among others, I have presented a paper titled “Violent masculinities and school shootings in Finland” (written together with Prof. Johanna Kantola and Ph.D. Student Jemima Repo) – presented at Foranderlige Mænd og Maskuliniteter i Ligestillede Samfund/ Changing Men and Masculinities in Gender Equal Societies conference, within Theme H: Uddannelse og opdragelse af drenge og piger: normalisering og formning af genus/ The education and upbringing of boys and the formation of masculinities (28.01-30.01.2009), Roskilde University, Denmark.
Call for Papers: Can Others Become Part of Us? Questions of National (Im)Purity. Workshop 19 at XLII Annual FPSA (11-12.03.2010 University of Helsinki & Tallinn University)
In an ever more integrated and diverse Europe, marked by a plethora of interactions between traditions, languages, and ethnic identities, the traditional understandings of nation-states and their role in societal structuring face new challenges. In a world where individuality and flexibility are norm, we witness the twin processes of widening up the traditional definitions of nation, with direct implications on that of citizenship, countered by the inward-looking, conservative attempt to contain and restrict the allowed definitions of the concept. What emerges is a continuous and fluid differentiation of “Us” from the “Other,” emphasized by the dual process of containing the generic “Us” to a coherent, indivisible and monolithic category; at the same time, the “Other” is crystallized to embody its symbolic and ever allusive counterpart.
Distinctions and borders are construed across various dimensions, and “purity” is a poignant concept for the definition of national, in-group belonging. Hierarchies of gender are elaborated to enforce heteropatriarchies as sole domains of national 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 “pollution,” of allowing the infestation of national body through the inclusion of male immigrant “Others.” Another dimension is that of a vaguely defined common European identity, which comes forth to strengthen European national specificities. These are projected as “European” and thus belonging to a transnational common “Us,” and embody a set of stable “traditions” and a “pure” culture that needs to be preserved against menacing, yet ubiquitous religiously different and racialized “Others.”
Paramount to all these dimensions is a preoccupation with maintaining an illusory “purity,” of a constant fear of “pollution” that is 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” allotted to immediate “Others,” based on differences of language, religion, ethnicity and race, and last but not least differences of gender and sexual orientation. With this in mind, authors are encouraged to submit papers inquiring into the apparently dichotomous distinction that separates the categories of “Us” as opposed to “Others,” as constitutive lubricant narratives of political discourse. Analyses of how gender and sexuality, ethnicity, religion, race, and obsessions of national preservation and reproduction are intersecting to create (new) mythologies of purity and pollution are particularly welcomed.
Kewords: (im)purity, nation, Other, Us.
The workshop will be part of XLII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association to be hosted by the University of Helsinki (Finland) and Tallinn University (Estonia) (11-12 March 2010). For information on the FPSA conference (updated constantly). The workshop is planed to take place in Helsinki, Finland. The language of the workshop panel will be English. Interested authors should submit their abstract (max. 300 words) accompanied by 5 keywords to the panel organizer by 29.01.2010:
Ov Cristian Norocel: cristian.norocel(@)helsinki.fi
It is often said that the European Parliamentary (EP) elections from June 2009 witnessed a rise of the radical-right populist parties. These parties have performed, indeed, very well. For instance in Finland, the True Finns (PS/Perussuomalaiset) has a mandate, in Romania, they surprisingly got 3, after Greater Romania Party (PRM/Partidul Romania Mare) surprisingly co-opted PNG‘s leader on their lists for the EP, and in Bulgaria the National Union Attack (Ataka) received 2 mandates. Not to mention that in the Netherlands the Party for Freedom (PVV/Partij voor de Vrijeheid) won 4 .
So far all these newly elected MEPs are crowding the ranks of the Non-Attached Members (NI/Non-Inscrits), with rather few options or ideas for building up their own party alliance within EP, which would ensure visibility and access to European financing. But things appear to be more complicated, and the fate of the now-deceased Identity Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS), and of the Independence/Democracy Group (IND/DEM) and Union of Europe of Nation (UEN) clouds the future of any possible alliance of the radical right populists in the EP.
The aforementioned “alphabet soup” of various combinations of abbreviations and short-writings may be succeeded by the nascent Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD), reuniting Finnish populists (PS), with Italian Northern League (LN/Lega Nord), and Danish People’s Party (DP/Dansk Folkeparti). The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) seems to be negotiating with the new alliance, though it is not very clear if this would be successfully concluded or not.
Worth mentioning, while looking at the NI, the non-attached parties, is the difficulty of the radical right populist parties from this category to position themselves according to their party agenda, and at the same time consolidate a functional alliance in EP.
One such example is the interview given by Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch PVV to Euronews channel (the whole interview may be viewed here). While most of the interview is focusing on what Wilders calls the danger Europe faces to giving in to Muslims pursuing to enforce Sharia on the continent, the title underlines the existing tensions between the “old” EU (The Netherlands are among the founding members) and the “newly arrived” from the last round of enlargement, Romania and Bulgaria. According to Wilders “the Dutch people think that Europe is large enough”, especially with regard to the hypothetical EU accession of Turkey and Ukraine. Playing the card of the menacing Other, especially the Muslim Other, is part of his usual discourse. The mention of cohorts of fanatical Muslims that corner ever-appeasing European-wide political establishment into granting Sharia legal standing within EU is not something uncommon in his speeches and interviews.
But then it appears that not even the EU latecomers Bulgaria and Romania are to be spared because “those countries were not ready at all, were very unready and very corrupt as well.” Suddenly the focus from the possible threat coming from a so distinctive Other (as the European Muslim) moves to the eastern borders of the EU, eying the newest EU-members. In this case the evil Other is no longer that easily perceived, and comes with an air of Balkanism, and suspicions of bribe and unruliness. Yet again fantasies of purity and of social welfare are interestingly mixed to portray an Other that is rather a peripheral presence, somewhere in an indistinct, far away and backward East, but positing the treat of always coming among the People, and possibly corrupting them. Even among the newly elected MEPs, one of PRM‘s representatives, George Becali, was put under a travel ban by Romanian judges under the suspicion of corruption.
In this context, one cannot but to wonder where are the radical right populists of Bulgaria and Romania in this whole conspiracy of the Other? Doing the maths, 2 MEPs from Ataka and 3 from PRM, may be just as good, and some may dare say as European as PVV‘s 4. What is then what divides them, and will they be able go past treating themselves as one another’s Others? Will radical right populists in EU manage to look past their obsessions of purity and settle for the compromises of daily politics?
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