Parliamentary elections this weekend in Finland have resulted in one more run to the political Right by members of a hoi polloi fed up with the European Union, the Eurozone, and immigration. The True Finn party, which has a microscopic six seats in the 200 seat parliament, has been predicted by Finnish state broadcaster YLE to end up with forty-one seats when the last thirty percent of the ballots have been counted.
This means the True Finns, which are notably Europhobic, opposed to immigration, and death on participating in another bailout of a broke Eurozone state, are in a dead heat with the almost as hard right National Coalition Party and the merely right wing Social Democrats. The big loser has been the Center Party, the senior partner of the current coalition government. The Center Party lost roughly a quarter of the support it had in the 2007 elections.
Before the vote, the True Finns were expected to gain support, but nothing like what has turned out to be the case. The stunning success of the True Finns means that either it or the Euroskeptic NCP will be in the next coalition. The other sixteen members of the Eurozone are hoping it won't be the True Finns, who are completely opposed to Finland participating in yet one more bailout.
Not that the True Finns being in the government will matter that much. Finnish law provides that parliament must vote on every instance of bailout participation unlike all the other Eurozone where the ministers alone hold the authority. The Finns are opposed to bailing out the next candidate for Eurozone welfare, Portugal. Given that every Eurozone decision must be unanimous, this means that Portugal will not get the money. It also means the Eurozone will face its largest and gravest challenge yet.
The Finns are a notably fiscally responsible people. At one time they stood at the head of the list of countries most admired by Americans because they were the only state to pay off in full and on time the money loaned to them by the US during and after World War I. While other, much larger states including the UK, did not pay their obligations to the US, "plucky" Finland did. A few years ago when Finland fell off the fiscal sobriety wagon briefly they could have benefited from some Eurozone understanding and assistance, but such was not forthcoming.
In a sense the current election represents pay back time. However, it is much more than that. Finn after Finn interviewed in the European media showed a remarkable disinclination for taking a share of the ultimate responsibility for money loaned to states which had already proven themselves improvident. There was a great well of resentment directed at the majority in parliament for having signed onto the earlier rounds of bailout, those to Greece and Ireland. "Never again!" became the motto across the Finnish board.
While the True Finn Party rode the bailout horse for all it was worth, they rode another as well: Immigration. As immigration did not have the potential to affect the Eurozone generally, it was not as well covered by the European media. Yet it was the position on immigration which separated the True Finns from the NCP. To the highly nationalistically inclined True Finns, immigration--any immigration--was a suicidal concept for Finland. This nationalistic message would have reverberated deeply in much of the non-elite Finnish population.
The history of Finland is to a great extent the history of nationalism, nationalism frustrated as during the long years of Russian occupation and nationalism triumphant as during the Winter War and Finland's alliance with Nazi Germany during much of World War II. After the war Finland became somewhat of a hollow state with options in foreign and national security as well as economic policy subject to Soviet control. It has been only since the collapse of the Soviet Union that Finland has again been undisputed master of its own house.
That mastery and the Finnish identity which underlies it has been threatened in the eyes of more than a few Finns by the machinations of the EU, the Eurozone, and the influx of immigrants, particularly those from non-European backgrounds. To a degree far surpassing the other parties, the True Finns linked the two issues. Their ultimate message was simply: "Who runs Finland? Who is Finnish?"
Pace the multi-culturalists and others favoring open borders and the loss of national identity and sovereignty, the message of the True Finns as well as its appeal to a large bloc of voters is not inherently racist. Neither is it xenophobic. Nor is it "Islamophobic." The message and its appeal address something fundamental in the relation of individual, nation, and state--identity. It also addresses the equally central matter of just who runs our country, us or outsiders? Given the years of domination either direct or indirect by Russia, it is not surprising that Finns might be particularly touchy on the question of who is in charge in Helsinki.
Should events play out as the movers and shakers of the Eurozone fear, the bailout for Portugal will not happen. In turn this means the Eurozone will be called into question. This is not a bad idea. The Eurozone is a ramshackle construction at best, sold to governments and voters alike as being a currency federation without a central bank. This is akin to being sold a nuclear power plant without the reactor--all the whistles and bells are present but without the guts of the endeavor.
The giants of the Eurozone and EU, Germany and France, will huff and puff about the unfairness of a percentage of the electorate of tiny (five and a half million people) Finland tossing a spanner in the works. There will be pressure put upon the new parliament to vote for the bailout regardless of explicit or implicit promises to the electorate. Inducements will be offered. Arms will be twisted. It will be polite smiles in public and rather ugly frowns in private.
But, these are the Finns. An enigmatic and mysterious people, the Finns are as deep and impenetrable in some ways as their endless evergreen forests, as cold but strangely inviting as the dark blue lakes dotting those forests. The Finns barely seventy-five years ago held off the monstrous steamroller of the Red Army for months, fighting alone against the largest military juggernaut in the world. They did not win a victory, but they won a defeat in which they came off far better than would have been the case had they not fought or not fought with such tenacity. Even Joe Stalin had to respect the Finns.
The Eurocrats may learn to respect them as well. If the Finns, True and otherwise, hold tough, say a firm "no!" to the next bailout, the result will be short term dismay for the Eurozone enthusiasts, but this in the longer term may prove highly beneficial. There is another benefit residing in this election for those European politicians with the wit to see it. The Finnish common folk have shown one more time that they have not bought the bill of goods being peddled by the multi-cultural, post nationalist elites.
There is a lesson there--and not just for Europeans.