This month’s opinion polls indicate that despite rife anti-immigration sentiments in society, the populist Finns Party have suffered a damning low-blow.
The looming weight of broken promises has stacked since the General Election in April, as voter backlash has left the Finns Party with a 4.3% point fall in this month’s opinion polls.
“This is the biggest decline in at least 30 years, and possibly the biggest decline in history,” said University of Turku’s Senior Political Research Scientist, Erkka Railo. “Over the past three months the Finns Party have broken their free main promises: stop immigration, prevent money to Greece and defending the most vulnerable in society.”
This political volte-face has been imposed by the Party holding a minority stake within the Finnish Government. The Finns party, who won 17.7% of the votes in the 2015 election, is the third largest in the Coalition; behind the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party.
This has resulted the Governments stronger parties pressuring the Finns to sacrifice their three main promises without exception.
Even party Leader, Timi Soini, who holds the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, has had to sacrifice his prized anti-immigration policies in the midst of political compromise.
That is the price of Coalition
Unsurprisingly this recoil of votes has been reflected by Finns Party MPs, with “a far right faction creating tensions within the party itself,” News Editor for Kauppalehti, Mikko Metsamaki, explained to Euroscope this week.
The far right faction, spearheaded by openly anti-immigration MPs like Olli Immonen, have influenced some of its supporters with public statements to such an extent that some people have taken the law into their own hands.
“The Party itself denies it has direct links to people who have behaved violently against immigrants and refugees, but some members of the party have been organising rallies against immigration,” said Erkka Railo.
Anti-immigration sentiments in politics and society have been growing on their own accord, with the refugee crisis only fueling the fire. But the volume of violence isn’t as strongly reflected on-the-ground as it is in parliament.
Online platforms are where most of the public hate towards immigrants is vented, particularly on Homma (a forum known for its critique of immigration) which was founded by member of the Finns Party Jussi Hallo-aho.
Despite the volume of opinion generated online, there is limited traction in turning this support into protest on-the-ground. “Hundreds or thousands Finns online are active against immigration, but in real life when you check these demonstrations there are a tiny faction of people who are active,” said Finnish newspaper Editor Mikko Metsamaki.
Spats of anti-immigration protests have taken place, most notably the “Close Borders” anti-immigration demonstration in early October which attracted near 200 people, but support is restricted.
Worryingly a minority of anti-immigration supporters have used physical violence to express their frustration. “A group of twenty people threw fireworks and stones both towards a bus of asylum seekers and Finnish red cross workers,” said Senior Researcher for the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Teemu Sinkkonen.
The political foothold of the True Finns may have lost traction in the polls, but the rhetoric of Party Members is still leaving its imprint. “Ministers of the Parliament are relating asylum seekers to terrorism, posing the image that there is a security threat is adding fuel to the anti asylum seeker movement.”
“We haven’t seen the worst yet, but saying that it is still a minority.”