Crisis in the Finnish government - the story so far
2017-07-04 14:31:14 -
Panu Höglund

At the beginning of this summer, the party formerly known as the True Finns gathered at a national convention in order to elect a new chairman. Timo Soini – who founded the party in the nineties – was going to resign, with a lot of candidates available, but only two of them important enough to merit attention: Jussi Halla-aho and Sampo Terho, both being basically representatives of the extreme right wing that had been taking over the party during the last ten years or so.

Soini founded the party on the heritage of our great populist Veikko Vennamo, who led the old Finnish Rural Party in 1959-1979 and who greatly influenced the party even after that. Vennamo was a highly learned man, but at the same time he was able to look and sound like a country bumpkin to impress voters. 
It has been the same with Soini: it is typical that he gave his autobiography the title Maisterisjätkä, which means ‘the jätkä Master of Arts’ – the Finnish word jätkä originally meaning ‘lumberjack’ but now used in the generic sense for a man. The word suggests folksiness and honesty.

Soini has always led his followers like a dictator, but at the same time his party has been infiltrated by the secret neo-Nazi society Suomen Sisu or ‘Finnish Endurance’. This faction was led by Jussi Halla-aho, who is adored by his cult of internet idolaters. My experience suggests that these cultists behave as an army of zombies; if Halla-aho suggests to them that he doesn’t like somebody – typically a journalist with a critical eye on True Finns – these zombies will persecute that person online until he or she commits some misstep.

When Halla-aho and Terho were interviewed together on TV, no observer was able to see any difference as far as outlook and ideology was concerned. And indeed, in bygone days Halla-aho was quite happy to recommend Terho as a substitute candidate when he wasn’t running in an election himself. But when party members had to choose between Halla-aho and Halla-aho Lite, it is obvious that they preferred the real thing.

He wasn’t Timo Soini’s choice, as Soini was bent on controlling the party even after the election of the new chairman. He would much have preferred Terho, as he didn’t trust Halla-aho, that loose cannon without the diplomatic skills a professional politician would need. Moreover, Soini has reached the top of his political career as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and he wasn’t going to resign this office on Halla-aho’s watch. 

So Soini and twenty other MPs started a new parliamentary faction, first called the New Alternative and after that, Blue Future. The other parties in the coalition – the conservatives or Kokoomus and the Centre Party – were quite happy with this solution, as it secured a parliamentary majority for the coalition.
However, it seems that the end of the story of this split hasn’t yet been told. As is their wont, Halla-aho’s zombie army is threatening Soini’s faction with bloody murder. And it seems the threats are working, as a couple of parliamentarians have gone back to Halla-aho’s fold at time of writing.

The irony of this story is how Soini’s followers are complaining about the threats they are getting from Halla-aho’s faction. They were perfectly happy and satisfied with the threats and slander as far as only journalists and common citizens were being attacked. But with their own selves targeted in a campaign of hatred, they are wailing as if they were suffering the worst injustice ever.

Panu Höglund is a Finn who writes in Irish.
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