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|Deputy leader||Laura Huhtasaari|
|Third deputy leader||Juho Eerola|
|Founded||11 May 1995|
|Preceded by||Finnish Rural Party (de facto)|
|Youth wing||Finns Party Youth|
|European Parliament group||European Conservatives and Reformists|
|Colours||Blue, White, and Gold|
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The Finns Party, formerly known in English as the True Finns (Finnish: Perussuomalaiset, PS, Swedish: Sannfinländarna, Sannf.),[note 1] is a populist and nationalist-oriented Finnish political party, founded in 1995 following the dissolution of the Finnish Rural Party.
In the 2011 parliamentary election, the party won 19.1% of votes, becoming the third largest party in the Finnish Parliament. In the 2015 election the party got 17.7% of the votes, making them the parliament's second largest party. The party was in opposition for the first 20 years of its existence. In 2015 they joined the government coalition formed by Prime Minister Sipilä. Following a 2017 split, over half of the party's MPs left the parliamentary group and were subsequently expelled from their party membership. This defector group, New Alternative (later renamed as Blue Reform), continued to support the government coalition, while the Finns Party went into opposition.
The party combines left-wing economic policies with conservative social values, socio-cultural authoritarianism, and ethnic nationalism. Several researchers have described the party as fiscally centre-left, socially conservative, a "centre-based populist party" or the "most left-wing of the non-socialist parties", whereas other scholars have described them as radically right-wing populist.[note 2] In the parliament seating order, the party's MPs have always been seated in the centre and the party's supporters have described themselves as centrists as well. The party has drawn people from left-wing parties but central aspects of their manifesto have gained support from right-wing voters as well.[note 3] The Finns Party has been compared by international media to the other Nordic populist parties and other similar nationalist and right-wing populist movements in Europe that share euroscepticism and are critical of globalism, whilst noting its strong support for the Finnish welfare state.
In June 2014, the Finns Party joined the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, where it co-operates with parties like the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom and Law and Justice of Poland.
The predecessor of the Finns Party was the Finnish Rural Party (Suomen maaseudun puolue, SMP), founded by Agrarian League dissident Veikko Vennamo in 1959. Vennamo ran into serious disagreement with Arvo Korsimo, the Agrarian League's party secretary, and was excluded from the parliamentary group. As a result, Vennamo immediately started building his own organization and founded the Finnish Rural Party. Vennamo was a populist and became a critic of President Urho Kekkonen and of political corruption within the "old parties", particularly the Centre Party (the renamed Agrarian League). The Rural Party achieved two major victories in the elections of 1970 and 1983, winning 18 and 17 seats respectively. In the 1970s, Vennamo's personalized leadership style alienated some in the party, which led to a split in the parliamentary group in 1972. After the Rural Party's new rise in 1983 under Vennamo's son Pekka, the party became a partner in two coalition governments. However, the party's support declined steadily in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1995, the party won only one seat in the Finnish parliament and soon filed for bankruptcy.
In the summer of 1995, following the collapse of the Finnish Rural Party, the decision to found the Finns Party was made by Timo Soini, Raimo Vistbacka, Urpo Leppänen and Kari Bärlund. Soini had been the Rural Party's last party secretary and Vistbacka its last chairman and MP. The party collected the five thousand signatures needed for registration and was added to the official party register on 13 October 1995. The first party congress was held in November. Vistbacka was elected party chairman and Soini the party secretary.
It took some time before the Finns Party gained ground in Finnish elections. At the time of its founding in 1995, the party's sole MP was Vistbacka, who was reelected in the 1999 election. In 2003, the party won three seats: besides Vistbacka, Soini and Tony Halme were elected. In the 2007, the party gained two further seats for a total of five. In the 2008 municipal election, the Finns Party were most successful in those districts where the Social Democrats and the Left Alliance lost most. In the 2011 election, the Centre Party suffered the largest blow from the Finns Party's success.
According to a 2008–2009 study, Finns Party supporters viewed themselves as centrist: on a scale where 1 was extreme left and 10 was extreme right, the average supporter placed themselves at 5.4. According to the same study, supporters were united by patriotism and social conservatism. A 2011 study indicated that the Finns Party was the most popular party among voters with an annual income of 35,000–50,000 euros, while over a quarter of the party's voters earn over 50,000 per year. The same study also indicated that the party's voters included a higher percentage of blue collar workers than those of the Social Democrats.
Timo Soini led the Finns Party for twenty years, from 1997 until 2017. He was first elected to the parliament in 2003. He was the party's candidate in the 2006 presidential election, and was elected to the European Parliament in 2009 with the highest personal vote share in the country. He served as an MEP for two years, returning to the Finnish parliament in the 2011 election. Soini was the party's presidential candidate for a second time in the election of 2012. Jussi Halla-aho succeeded Soini as party chairman in 2017.
The Finns Party obtained 39 seats in the 2011 election, making them the third largest party, narrowly behind the National Coalition Party (44) and the Social Democrats (42). Soini received 43,212 personal votes, the highest number of all candidates, leaving behind the Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and the Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen in their Uusimaa electoral district. The popularity of the party rose from 4.1% to 19.1% in just four years. Helsingin Sanomat wrote in an editorial that the party and Soini had "rewritten the electoral history books". According to political analyst Jan Sundberg, Soini had the ability to appeal to common people and make complicated things look easy. The election result was also referred to as "shocking" and "exceptional".
After the election, the National Coalition Party (NCP) began negotiations aiming to form a cabinet between the NCP, the Social Democrats, and the Finns Party. However, when it became clear that the NCP and the Social Democrats would continue to support EU bailouts, which the Finns Party vehemently opposed during the electoral campaign, the party voluntarily broke from the negotiations in order to become the leading opposition party. Soini said that the party would not compromise its core principles just to enter the government. According to an opinion poll, most of the party's supporters accepted this decision.
The Finns Party's popularity initially continued to rise after the 2011 election: in one opinion poll from June 2011 gave the party a record popularity of 23 percent. The party's membership rose to over 8,000 members by 2013 (up from circa 5,500 in 2011 and circa 1,000 in 2005). Membership in the party's youth organisation rose as well, going from 800 before the 2011 election to over 2,200 in 2013.
The party nominated Soini as its candidate for the 2012 presidential election; Soini finished fourth with 9.4 percent. Soini interpreted the result by saying that half of the party's voters wanted him for president, while the other half wanted to him to remain as party chairman. In municipal elections later in 2012, the party got 12.3 percent of votes and 1,195 seats in the municipal councils, up more than 750 from the previous municipal election. However, this result saw the votes for the party shrink significantly from the 2011 parliamentary election result. The party got 12.9 percent of votes in the 2014 European Parliament election and increased its number of MEPs to two.
In the 2015 election, the Finns Party got 17.7% of the votes and 38 seats. This meant that they were the third largest party by votes but the second largest party by seats. The Finns Party subsequently entered into a coalition government with the Centre Party and the NCP, led by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. The party's participation in the Sipilä Cabinet marked a softening of its Eurosceptic positions. On 22 June 2016, Finns Party MP Maria Tolppanen joined the Social Democrats, after which the Finns Party had 37 seats in the parliament. In March 2017, Soini announced that he would step down as party chairman in the next party congress in June.
In June 2017, Jussi Halla-aho and Sampo Terho faced off in the leadership election, in which Halla-aho received 949 votes against Terho's 646 votes and thus succeeded Soini as party chairman. Sipilä and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo soon announced that they would not continue their coalition with the Finns Party if it was led by Halla-aho. Subsequently, twenty Finns Party MPs, including Soini and Terho, defected to form a new parliamentary group under the name New Alternative, later renamed into Blue Reform. As all cabinet ministers were among the defectors, the Blue Reform made an agreement with Sipilä to stay in the government.
Following the split, MPs Veera Ruoho and Arja Juvonen left the Finns Party parliamentary group to continue as independents, after which the party's seats were reduced to fifteen. All of the defecting MPs were subsequently expelled from the Finns Party. In the following weeks, MPs Ritva Elomaa and Arja Juvonen regretted their decision and re-joined the party, raising the amount of MPs to seventeen.
The party nominated MP Laura Huhtasaari as its candidate for the 2018 presidential election. In the election, Huhtasaari placed third with 6.9 percent of the votes, while the incumbent president Sauli Niinistö went on to secure his second term with a majority of votes.
When the Finns Party first gained representation in the European Parliament in 2009, it became a founding member of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD) in the Parliament. After the 2014 election, however, the party chose to leave the EFD in order to join the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). Commenting on the party's choice of group, party secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo said in 2014 that joining a right-wing parliamentary group would not change the party's characteristic of being a "centre-left workers' party".
In evaluating the Finns Party's 70 page program for the 2011 election Mikko Lahtinen, political scientist in the University of Tampere, and Markku Hyrkkänen, historian of ideas in the University of Turku, note that nationalism is a theme consistently repeated throughout the program. According to them the party presents populism as a noble ideology, which seeks to empower the people. Lahtinen describes the rhetoric used in the program as a refreshing change to the politically correct "jargon" of mainstream media, and believes that the Finns Party may have succeeded in gaining supporters from the traditional left-wing parties by presenting a more attractive form of criticism of neoliberalism than those parties.
Ville Pernaa, political scientist, described the party's 2015 electoral program by saying that the Finns Party combines elements of both right-wing and left-wing politics along with populist rhetoric.
The Finns Party has proposed more progressivity to taxes in order to avoid the establishment of flat taxation. The party has called for the raising of the capital gains tax and the re-institution of the wealth tax. According to the party, the willingness to pay taxes is best guaranteed by a society unified by correct social policies — the electoral program warns against individualist policies, which weaken the solidarity among citizens. "The willingness to pay taxes is guaranteed by having a unified people", the program reads (p. 46).
Some observers have compared the Finns Party's fiscal policies to the old national Social Democratic taxation policy, which has given the left-wing brand to the Finns Party. During the electoral campaign in 2011 Soini stated that he preferred the Social Democrats over the center-right National Coalition Party as a possible coalition partner in a future cabinet. Soini has stated that the Finns Party is a "workers' party without socialism". A researcher for the opinion polling company Taloustutkimus agreed, describing the Finns Party as a "non-socialist workers' party".
The Finns Party's rural policy program suggests state subsidies to relieve the effect of structural changes on the rural areas. This policy is shared by the Centre Party in Finland and originates from the agrarian and rural policies of both parties.
The Finns Party favours state investments in infrastructure and industry as well. A tendency towards favouring old industrial policies have led some political analysts to label the Finns Party as a center-left party.
The cultural program of the Finns Party, which proposed subsidizing traditional art over postmodernist art, prompted criticism from outside the party and generated debate within the party as well. Some critics of the policy called it overtly populist or said that the state should not interfere with the content of art. A poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat at the time of the controversy found that a majority, 51 percent, of Finns agreed with the party's stance on ending subsidies for postmodern art.
The party also requires that immigrants accept Finnish cultural norms. The only written declaration to the European Parliament made by a True Finn MEP also concerns immigration matters. The party underlines the role of national sovereignty in immigration issues:
[True] Finnish immigration policy should be based on the fact that the Finns should always be able to decide for themselves the conditions under which a foreigner can come to our country and reside in our country.
Timo Soini signed a pan-European charter against racism in 1998. However, in 2009, before the European Parliament election, Soini refused to sign an anti-racism appeal, saying that the appeal was an attempt to influence the party's choice of candidates (the appeal was drawn up by another political party). All other Finnish parties signed this appeal against racism. In May 2011, following controversies surrounding the remarks of the Finns Party's MP Teuvo Hakkarainen, the Finns Party's parliamentary group issued a statement condemning all racism and discrimination, including affirmative action. The party invited other parties to sign the statement as well, but no other party did so. In December 2011, an opinion poll revealed 51% of Finns Party voters agreed with the statement, "People of certain races are unsuited for life in a modern society."
Timo Soini has been an outspoken critic of both the EU and NATO, but has stated that if a choice had to be made, NATO is a lesser evil than the EU. The Finns Party favors non-alliance or neutrality, as international activities abroad for the Defence Forces would undermine the defence budget's funds for sustaining a large conscript army of war-time personnel (which is 350,000) to guarantee the defence of all of Finland. When the Finnish Parliament voted to ratify the Ottawa Treaty, banning anti-personnel mines, in November 2011, the Finns Party was the only party unified in opposing the treaty.
The party believes in national sovereignty:
[T]he eternal and unlimited right to always decide freely and independently of all of one's affairs lies only and solely with the people, which forms a nation separate of others.
During the 2011 election the party's judicial programme included:
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|Election year||Candidate||1st round||Position|
|# of overall votes||% of overall vote|
|Election year||# of total votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won|
|Election year||# of total votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won|
The party chairmanship is divided between four persons, elected at party congress biannually. Jussi Halla-aho is the party's chairman. The first deputy chairwoman is Laura Huhtasaari, the second deputy chairman is Teuvo Hakkarainen and the third deputy chairman is Juho Eerola.
Raimo Vistbacka chaired the Finns Party from 1995 to 1997. The party secretary Timo Soini succeeded Vistbacka as chairman in 1997.
Rolf Sormo followed Timo Soini as party secretary and served from 1997 to 1999. The third party secretary, Hannu Purho, served for eight years, from 1999 to 2007. After him, Timo Soini's parliamentary assistant, Ossi Sandvik, was elected party secretary in 2007. He was succeeded by Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo, who was elected as party secretary in 2013.
The foundation Perussuomalaisten tukisäätiö ("The Finns Party support fund") was founded in 1990. It used the name SMP:n tukisäätiö until 2006. The fund borrowed 1.7 million euros from the party in 2012 to buy a 450 m2 commercial property in downtown Helsinki on Yrjönkatu for use as the Party's new headquarters. The Party rented these premises from the fund.
Another fund, Suomen Perusta ("The Foundation of Finland"), was set up in 2012. Its role is to function as a think tank affiliated with the party.
Leena Meri is the current chairman of the parliamentary group.
Several True Finns MPs and other party leaders have made public statements which others have interpreted as being racist or otherwise inflammatory. In 2011 True Finn MP James Hirvisaari was fined 1,425 euro by the Kouvola Court of Appeals for comments he made on his blog about Muslims. In 2011 President Tarja Halonen was quoted characterizing some True Finn voters as racist. Her comments were broadly condemned by the True Finn party. A 2011 book by Swedish journalist Lisa Bjurwald made a similar characterization, that the party's leaders support racist positions, while publicly denying that they do so.
In 2011 MP Pentti Oinonen declined an invitation to the presidential Independence Day ball, citing his aversion to seeing same-sex couples dance. In a judgement given on 8 June 2012, MP Jussi Halla-aho, then Chairman of the Administration Committee was found guilty by the Supreme Court of both disturbing religious worship and ethnic agitation for statements he made about Muhammad in his blog.
In October 2013 it was reported that a Finns Party member of parliament, James Hirvisaari, had invited far-right activist Seppo Lehto as his guest to the parliament. During his visit, Lehto made several Nazi salutes, including at least one instance where Hirvisaari took a photo of Lehto performing the Nazi salute from the spectator gallery overlooking the Parliament House's Session Hall. Photos and videos of Lehto performing the Nazi salute in the Parliament House were then distributed on Lehto's public Facebook page and on YouTube. After newspapers broke news of the incident, Speaker of the Parliament Eero Heinäluoma issued a notice of censure to Hirvisaari for the incident and the Finns Party leadership unanimously decided to expel Hirvisaari from the party, citing multiple cases of acting against the party's interest. Hirvisaari then became affiliated with the Change 2011 party as the party's MP, until he was unseated in the parliamentary election of 2015.
Olisi väärin määritellä perussuomalaiset nyt äärioikeistolaiseksi puolueeksi [It would be wrong to now define the Finns Party as a far-right party]