Monday, 18 April 2011

Finnish Election

Finland held its general election yesterday, with the right-wing populist True Finns breaking through to become one of the main parties in the Finnish parliament (Finland is unicameral, so it only has one chamber of parliament).

The BBC reports the predicted seats for the main parties (out of 200) as:

"National Coalition Party - 44

Social Democrats - 42

True Finns - 39

Centre Party - 35"

Percentage-wise, the True Finns will have gone from 4% to 20% of the vote. Their platform is eurosceptic and anti-immigration, with the bail-outs of Greece, Ireland and now Portugal helping to boost their popularity, as the idea of sending money over to other EU Member States doesn't seem to have been defended very well: it's a lot easier to sell a simple rejectionist message than explain the complex economic case for supporting other countries. That's not to tsay that there isn't a need to challenge the current approach to the European debt crisis - and the worrying signs of satisfaction at the measures taken so far. Though the methods and ideas so far haven't been far-sighted enough, going into reverse gear would make the situation worse.

"The party's candidates are a motley crew and amongst them there are distinct anti-immigrant views. Neither does the party leadership have much sympathy for a place for the Swedish language and Swedish teaching in Finland. Nor for development aid, climate policies and so on. The general impression is that of deep conservative values and a nationalistic spirit. The word extreme right is not used in Finland. The party's future shape depends however on which of the party's candidates finally win a place in parliament." - EU Observer.

Given how close the seat numbers arre for the 4 biggest parties, it is possible that the True Finns could even end up in government. Again, it's hard to know whether the best approach would be to freeze them out of coalition possibilities or not (which takes us back to the question of how to deal with such parties generally). I haven't been following Finnish politics closely enough to know how extreme the True Finns are in their rhetoric and policies, but from what I've read they seem quite extreme. I hope that the mainstream parties start digging in and re-vitalising their grassroots.


  1. When has throwing good money after bad, with no result, been good?

    You explain it!

  2. How the Eurozone is reformed determines whether or not the loans were a good idea, really - at least in the case of Ireland. Not offering the loans would have meant that the debt in the debtor countries would have washed back into the economies of the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, etc., since the banks in these countries did the majority of the lending to the debtor countries. That in turn would damage their economies and force them to prop up their banks (so their sovereign debt is under greater pressure), or let their financial institutions suffer the damage and maybe even some would collapse.

    The calculation is that this way, the austerity is more localised to the debtor countries, and that the creditor countries can make a profit off the interest rates on the rescue loans.

    It depends on whether the austerity plan will work or not. I don't think it will, so I'd say that the "bail-out" structure needs to be restructed to allow some of the restructuring they're talking about in the post-2013 Eurozone can happen now. That would mean that some of the loans should be written off, but that the debt would be more manageable for the debtor countries, and on balance the debt flowing back to the creditors wouldn't be that great. In addition, there would be room for the debtor countries to stimulate grow through investment as the cut in other areas of government expediture.

    Other people think that the austerity plan will work, and you just need to give the economies time to recover.