20 September 2010
HELSINKI (AFP) – Finland’s anti-immigrant True Finns party sees the rise of a far-right party in neighbouring Sweden as a sign it will also score gains in the next elections, a top party official told AFP Monday.
“It appears that it will go just as badly for left-wing parties here,” deputy party chairman and member of parliament Pentti Oinonen said.
He said his party expects to double or triple the number of parliamentary seats in elections next April, aiming for at least 15 of the 200 seats.
Like the far-right, anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats, Finland’s True Finns are also campaigning for much tighter immigration policies, although the party rejects what they describe as overtly racist rhetoric in the Swedish party’s campaign.
Only 2.7 percent of Finland’s 5.4 million inhabitants are foreign nationals and the country counts few naturalised foreigners compared to other Nordic countries.
Nonetheless, Oinonen said he believed immigration would rise to become a top election topic.
“We take in unreasonable numbers of immigrants, their benefits need to be cut, the family reunification policy is flawed, it’s all gotten out of control,” he said.
Socio-economically, The True Finns Party is fairly centre-left, but some of its members have drawn fire for adopting xenophobic, anti-EU and anti-gay rhetoric, despite chairman Timo Soini’s efforts to downplay his party’s former extremist image.
The True Finns’ popular support has surged over the past few years, and with opinion polls in August handing it 10.7-percent voter support, it is running in fourth place.