Finnish Democracy Is on the Brink

A noose and an unprintable racist message were delivered to a Muslim legislature last week. The target was not the Minnesota MP Ilhan Omar, as you might have imagined, but – shockingly – Suldaan Said Ahmed, a first-term member of the Finnish Parliament. “This repulsive act is only part of the racist feedback and harassment I have faced while in politics,” Ahmed said. “I thought it was important to show what it is like in public. The people of Finland will still have to grapple with this in the 2020s. I would like to work to ensure that no more children will be confronted with something like this in the future. ”

On the rare occasions that Finland makes international headlines, it’s because the country has been crowned the happiest nation in the world for four consecutive years. Breathtaking nature, job security, social support from cradle to grave, high trust in the government, world-class gin – what else can you not like besides the long, dark winter?

Last summer, normally dormant Finns were outraged by the revelation that Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s family was receiving € 850 (US $ 985) a month for breakfast and cold meals. “Breakfastgate,” as the press put it, prompted angry citizens to demand Marin’s resignation, claiming that the alleged scandal had undermined “social trust”. The police opened an investigation.

Breakfastgate was a silly season story, media-produced outrage when there was nothing else to report. But the anti-Ahmed racism is just one example of the political problems that lurk behind the scenes in this Nordic paradise. Finland is vulnerable to the same threats that democracies across the European Union face – the popularity of nativist parties, polarized political discourse on social media, cyberbullying of minorities and politicians, and trolling aimed at disrupting the government. Far-right groups are using video games to recruit youth, and a neo-Nazi organization lurks on the fringes.

The Finns Party is the country’s hyper-nationalist party, kissing cousin of Marine LePens National Rally in France and ideologically like-minded parties across Europe. The party is an important political force. In the 2019 national elections, she only achieved 0.2 percent – that’s 7,500 votes – to win a majority. It’s the most popular party among 15-29 year olds.

Immigration is the calling card of the Finns. Although the proportion of immigrants in the country is lower than in most western European countries, the party rejects “harmful immigration”. Ban burqa – keep Somalis and Iraqis out; Disguise asylum seekers disguised as drug traffickers and terrorists.

On the far right, the Finnish Resistance Movement (FRM) – virulently anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and homophobic – dreams of installing a Hitler-style dictatorship. Although its membership is small, it has done more than its part of the damage. Members have beaten up immigrants, attacked participants in gay pride and anti-racism demonstrations, defaced synagogues and destroyed the Israeli embassy.

Finns Party members have a tongue-in-cheek relationship with FRM. In a Facebook post, a Finnish MP praised an arson attack on a reception center for asylum seekers, which was undoubtedly carried out by neo-Nazis. Several thousand sympathizers cheer for the annual Helsinki march of the white racists, which the Finns promote.

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