Leader of the populist Finns Party steps down
Timo Soini, who has led the right-wing populist Finns Party for years, has announced his resignation. Some commentators fear that this may mean the Finns party, which is currently a member of the governing coalition, could shift further to the right. Others see right-wing populism in Finland in decline.
Populists at a crossroads
The Finns Party may drift further to the right without its charismatic leader Timo Soini, Etalö-Saimaa fears:
“After 20 years at the helm Soini's decision is understandable, nevertheless it presents risks for the party. The first challenge will be the local elections in a month's time. The Finns Party is seen as Soini's party, and if he steps down it will reduce the party's credibility in the eyes of voters. ... However the biggest risk is for the party's future. Can it remain socially acceptable or will xenophobic forces take over - hampering cooperation with other parties? ... In any case, the party's image will change. Soini is a figure who will be hard to replace.”
Right-wing Finns on the decline
Finland's right-wing populists have passed their zenith, the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat believes:
“The Finns Party achieved two major election victories thanks to its criticism of the EU. Timo Soini's main campaign topic was the issue of Greek debt being paid off with Finnish tax money. When he was forced to vote to pass the austerity package for Greece as a member of government, his criticism of Greece faded. ... Being part of the government will always have consequences, and that is particularly true for the Finns Party. ... Comparisons between it and European right-wing extremism reveal certain similarities, but also many differences. Soini has managed to prevent individual racist commentaries from becoming part of the party line. The same is true of criticism of immigration. He has made his party socially acceptable, which allowed it to join the government in 2015. While right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe, the phenomenon is in decline in Finland.”