Santa Claus Post Office in northern Finland Photo: Peter Dench
Santa Claus Post Office in northern Finland Photo: Peter Dench

By Juhani Niinisto

The new trend in Finland now is that the hidden views have become publicly debatable. The media has dug up colourful statements made by some leading politicians in the past, and they seem no longer to be “skeletons in the closet”.

Santa Claus Post Office in northern Finland Photo: Peter Dench
Santa Claus Post Office in northern Finland Photo: Peter Dench

With their rise to power, some populist politicians have softened their wording and suggested they should be forgotten, but apparently they have not been let pass unchallenged.
The newly elected Speaker of Parliament Maria Lohela of the Finns Party was recently confronted by media on her earlier opposition to the status of Swedish as a second national language and opinions against the practise of Islam in Finland.
She said in an interview on national television last week that as the Speaker she would no longer take a stand on such issues “as she represents the whole nation now”. An MP with Islamic background demanded that she should publically disassociate herself from her earlier views.
The earlier views of the newly appointed Finns Party Minister for Justice and Labour, Jari Lindstrom, have also made headlines. He did not completely discard his comment of favouring the consideration of death penalty. He told interviewers after his appointment that “he could choose it” if something very sinister is done to the children, for example.
Tom Moring, Professor of Media at the Helsinki University, told Xinhua in a recent interview these kinds of opinions are nothing new in Finland, but were much less made public earlier. “Such opinions have long existed in pubs, but have now entered the more public arenas,” he said.
Besides the social media, the development can be seen in radio phone-in programmes and in interviews with politicians as well.
Moring noted that some politicians in other parties have started using some of the terminology associated with the Finns party. They are not openly acceptable by these parties but have won a status of being part of the national discussion.
While the populist parties have gained wide support both in Sweden and Finland, the political repercussions have been different.
Moring said that there is a remarkable difference between the ways the political elite in Finland and in its western neighbour Sweden choose to cope with the rise of political populism in both countries. “The scope of what can be ‘politically correct’ has widened in Finland, but not in Sweden,” he said.
Moring noted that the majority of the politicians in Sweden simply choose to exclude extremist views from the national agenda. “In Sweden, mainstream parties have jointly decided to isolate the populists,” noted Moring, “and that has not happened in Finland.”
Moring said the increased use of military terminology in the wake of the Ukraine crisis has also impacted the discussion climate in Finland. “In the changed mental setting, it has been easier to give up previously existing values such as the high esteem of development co-operation,” he said. Enditem

-Xinhua

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