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Finnish eurosceptic party ‘combines left and right’

HELSINKI: Finland’s rising eurosceptic party says that it combines left-wing economic policies with conservative social values.

The Finns, the nationalist, ultra-conservative party of Finland, has 39 MPs, only five fewer than the largest group in the country’s parliament, the National Coalition Party.

Timo Soini, leader of The Finns, told Exaro: “The National Coalition is a conservative right-wing party, as are the Christian Democrats, as are the Tories in Britain. We are left from that, not right from that.”

In social issues, we are more left... but in the so-called value orientation, we are conservative

Timo Soini, The Finns leader

In the 1999 parliamentary elections, The Finns only won one seat; in 2003, three; in 2007, five; but, this year, 39.

The party first entered the European Parliament in 2009, with Soini as its sole member. He was succeeded after this year’s parliamentary elections by Sampo Terho.

“We are populist,” Soini continued. “We think that people and people’s opinions must be shown in the politics carried out by the politicians. That means that we are for decentralisation of power. We are more for small business rather than big business.

“In social issues, we are more left. We support national health care, national schooling, free meals in schools, but, in the so-called value orientation, we are conservative. Our populism means that.”

Soini ran for Finland’s presidency in 2006 and attracted 3.4 per cent of the votes. He is running for the presidency again in next year’s election due in January, and the latest poll puts him in second place at 11 per cent.

His party has caught a eurosceptic wave that has swept Europe and reached even Finland. But the party has faced accusations of extremism and racism.

Similar nationalist and anti-immigration parties have seen their support grow in other northern European countries.

In Norway, the Progress Party won 23 per cent of the vote in 2009 and 41 out of 169 seats in the country’s parliament, second after the Labour Party of the prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, which has 64 seats.

The Progress Party strongly advocates restricting immigration and started a parliamentary debate on the ban of hijabs in schools last year.

The Norwegian mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, was initially a member of its youth party, although he left because he did not find it radical enough.

In Denmark, the Danish People’s Party is the third largest party, with 25 seats in the 179-member parliament since 2007. Although not part of the government, the party has been supportive of the Liberal-Conservative coalition since 2001 in return for influence over policy. It advocates a ban on immigration from non-Western countries.

In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats received 5.7 per cent of the vote in the 2010 general election, breaking through the threshold needed to take seats in government for the first time, and preventing the governing centre-right coalition from having an overall majority. However, the party has been isolated by other parties in the Swedish parliament.

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