Earlier this week, a poll showed that populist Perussuomalaiset (the Finns / True Finns) remained the most popular political party in Finland. 23% of the 3,414 people surveyed over the course of about one-month supported the Finns, while 17.3% backed Kokoomus (the National Coalition Party), the second most popular party.
So soon after the spring parliamentary polls, it’s too early to think about new elections in Finland. However, the popularity of the Finns will be of concern to moderate-minded individuals, given the party’s anti-immigrant stance and critical views of the EU. Along with these factors, the Finns’ policies towards environmentalism, for example downplaying the importance of taking action to prevent climate change, may also be concerning to some. Yet these policies are winning over voters.
Who are the Finns?
The Finns became one of the most popular parties in Finnish politics after their election win in 2011. In 2019 parliament elections, they were the second-most popular party (17.5 % of all votes) after the Finnish Social Democratic Party (17.7% of all votes). The SDP’s popularity has since dropped to 13.9%, according to the poll mentioned above, mainly due to frustration with a lack of concrete steps by the government.
It definitely looks like the Finns party has established themselves on the Finnish political map. One of the reasons for their success and popularity is their anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic political views. Having shown their popularity during the spring elections, the Finns are now sitting comfortably in the opposition, able to critique the slow-to-perform coalition government.
Who supports the Finns?
The Finns have traditionally been most popular among more nationalist men with lower levels of education.
They’ve also been popular among those who would like to keep ‘Finland for Finnish people,’ individuals who see globalism as a threat, not as an opportunity. According to a survey that was conducted in 2016, 75% of the members of the Finns party were men, and 30% of the members had a degree in higher education (university or polytechnic). Only 10% of Finns party voters had a degree in higher education.
As in other countries, right-wing populism has gained momentum in Finland in recent years. Perussuomalaiset (ie the Finns party) became famous after their “Jytky” (it’s how they named their election win) in 2011. After the great recession in 2008, right-wing populism has grown in many countries (see the graph below). There has also been more “Jytkys” in the 2010s than just the Finns’ election win in 2011: the UK’s vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president in 2016 for example.
Today, the Finns are increasingly supported by young men under the age of 25 and those who are aged 35-64.
Business people are also starting to like the Finns party
According to Helsingin Sanomat, the most popular newspaper in Finland, people who voted for the Finns party in this year’s parlamentary elections were more right-wing and more educated than in previous elections. According to Suomen Uutiset, engineers, chief financial officers and ITC experts and other educated professionals share more and more of the worldview of the Finns party.
A typical example of a new supporter or member of the Finns could be Veikko Vallin, “The Trump of Tampere”, who joined the Finns party in 2017. He is a Member of Finnish Parliament, an entrepreneur and a millionaire who is against “bad” immigration and who would like to tax corporations and businesses less in Finland. He supports Donald Trump, the US president.
More and more municipal politicians have also become supporters of the Finns party after becoming unhappy with their previous party. The “Trump of Tampere” also claims that “many bankers and CEOs have patted my shoulder”.
Supporters of the Finns party are not only lower income people, at least not anymore. It will be very interesting to see if the Finns can attract more business people to support them in the future.
Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.