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Lessons for Sweden from Finnish election?

Publicerat måndag 18 april 2011 kl 15.40
"It will change the political debate"
(9:13 min)
Chairman of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, Jutta Urpilainen. Her party has adopted some of the anti-immigrant sentiment of the populist-nationalist True Finns, who garnered a wave of support in Sunday's elections. Photo: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / AP / Scanpix

The outcome of Sunday's national election in Finland has sparked discussion here in Sweden. In less than 10 years, the populist-nationalist True Finns have gone from having just over 1 percent of the vote to nearly 20 percent, and Swedish politicians from the main parties are calling the result worrying.

Finland's equivalent of the center-right Moderate party here in Sweden is the National Coalition party. They, followed by the center-left Social Democrats, won the biggest share of votes in Finland. But all of the parties lost support, except for one.

The only party to gain were the True Finns, who shot up by 15 percent since the last election. The party more than sextupled their seats in Parliament and now have almost one in five voters backing them.

The True Finns are critical of the EU, especially when it comes to rescuing debt-saddled countries like Greece and Portugal, they're also known as anti-immigrant. They're also against Finnish children having to learn Swedish in schools.

Foreign correspondent for Dagens Nyheter newspaper, Henrik Brors, has been covering the election in Helsinki.

Brors tells Radio Sweden that Sweden can learn a lesson from the Finnish election outcome. "You need to be very observant about what's happening deep down in the society, so nobody's left behind," says Brors. 

Brors adds that governments can't just pay lip service to social welfare, because if people feel dispossessed and band together to vote for the same party, then "you have a real probelm."

During the last election in Sweden, an anti-immigrant party called the Sweden Democrats got elected to Parliament for the first time. While Brors says that the Sweden Democrats and the True Finns may be similar in their day to day politics from immigrants to social welfare, they come from completely different backgrounds.

"The True Finns are a populist party already from the 70s from the rural areas, while the Swedish Democrats have a neo-Nazi background and are more of a sectarian party," says Brors.

He says that in Finland, the Social Democrats have adopted some of the True Finns' anti-immigrant rhetoric, which he calls a big problem. But he says that the main parties in Sweden have avoided this by excluding the Sweden Democrats.

Populist party scores big in Finnish election

The True Finns, an anti-immigrant party that is critical both of the EU and requirements that force Finns to study Swedish in school, received 15 percent more votes in Sunday's national election than in 2007.

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