Sanna Marin’s fall confirms that populism is back
But it is not a rejection of Western support for Ukraine
The list of internationally famous Finnish politicians is not a long one — arguably it consists only of the current Prime Minister, Sanna Marin. In part, that’s because she breaks the famous rule that politics is showbiz for ugly people. More importantly, she was in office when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Finland, like Ukraine, has a long border with Russia and used to be part of the Russian Empire. Marin’s response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion was to reverse her nation’s postwar policy of strict neutrality and join Sweden in applying for NATO membership. Her place in the history books is assured — which is just as well, because last night she lost the general election.
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Marin’s party, the Social Democrats, slipped from first to third place, and the premier conceded defeat late last night. However, the fact that a similar fate also befell her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Anderson — another NATO-joining social democrat — should not be interpreted as an anti-NATO backlash.
For a start, Marin’s party increased its share of the vote yesterday. Unfortunately for her, the conservative National Coalition Party did even better, moving into first place. If Putin had hoped to intimidate his neighbours into passivity, then this victory for the conservatives — the most pro-NATO party — is yet another failure of Russian foreign policy.
Can Putin take any comfort from the advance of the populist Finns Party, which achieved its best-ever result to take second place? After all, Moscow has often looked to Europe’s hard-Right parties for sympathy. Only last week, more than 20 MPs from Austria’s Freedom Party staged a walk-out when Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the national parliament.
However, there’s a big difference between the Nordic populists and their counterparts in the Danube region. To put it mildly, Finnish nationalism is not known for its pro-Russian tendencies. This country of just over five million people did not free itself from the Tsarist yoke in 1917 nor humble Stalin’s Red Army in the Winter War by rolling over in the face of Russian aggression.
What we can say about last night’s result is that it is further confirmation that European populism is on the march again. As in other countries, there was a decline in populist support during the pandemic — but this has proved to be a temporary phenomenon. A strong second place for the Finns Party makes it a possible coalition partner for the Finnish conservatives (though the latter may prefer to forge a grand coalition with the Social Democrats).
Recent polls show a similar story elsewhere. The aforementioned Austrian Freedom Party now has a clear lead in recent polls. In France, the far-Right National Rally is gaining ground. In the Netherlands, the Farmer-Citizen Movement is now so popular that it has more than double the support of the next nearest party. In neighbouring Flanders (the Flemish speaking half of Belgium), the leading party is the separatist Vlaams Belang. Meanwhile, in Italy Giorgia Meloni’s party remains the dominant force.
There is no consistency in these various parties’ foreign policies — so the populist revival cannot be interpreted as a general backlash against Western support for Ukraine. Rather, to explain why so many voters are so angry with the political establishment, we must look to the home front.
Populism = “hard right”? Jeremy Corbyn was a populist.
I see modern populism as a rejection of technocracy and technocratic elites. Technocracy tends to authoritarianism (which, in turn, can lead to fascism).
Populism tends even more. A lot more, in fact. All modern European authoritarian regimes, especially fascist ones, have been populist in their rhetoric, and also policies. Populism is, above all, anti-elitist and exclusionary, claiming the right to decide who is the people” and who is not.
Don’t technocrat led societies do the same? Populists might draw the boundaries along ethnic or religious lines but technocrats do it by judging what’s acceptable and what’s beyond the Pale in yens of thought h and speech
I agree with “populist in their rhetoric” but not so much with “(populist in their) policies”. Populist is one of those weasel words like ‘liberal’. The Spiked crew are proudly populist, but they are proudly libertarian too.
I certainly think that the technocratic elitist hegemony we live under would like you to believe that populists are fascists.
Right now, I see populism as the last line of defence against both the new puritanism and the growing authoritarian control of our lives. Sunak is backing biometric digital ID, CBDCs and online censorship. Starmer will do the same.
As the article points out, across Europe people have had enough of all this. In the UK we will apathetically be led like lambs to the slaughter unless somebody stands up against it and gets the public behind them.
It’s a difficult one.
Hold on a moment. If anti-elitists are “exclusionary”, then who isn’t ? The elitists and technocrats ? Or no one ?
‘Populism’ is just what elitists call democracy.
Exactly. As I have said before, populism is what you call democracy when you don’t like the result. It is an effect (of something else) rather than a distinctive concept in it’s own right.
Today, I see populism as the only hope to avoid the nonsense flying around. Certainly, the political parties are all in it together.
I think it is a bit insincere to claim that Right wing parties are pro-Putin automatically on the continent. A lot of them simply claim that support for Ukraine should not exceed what is in the national interest, which is why in practice they vary so much in terms of policy. It is a stance which recognises more than a single overriding moral axis of pro-Ukraine/pro-Russia.
But like most of our politics these days, the topic seems to revolve around a one-dimensional morality which also seems to change on a weekly basis depending on the whims of the commentator class .. pro/anti-vaccine, pro/anti-Trump, pro/anti-Putin,… yawn yawn.
I agree. I’m in favour of sending support to Ukraine but just because someone isn’t, doesn’t mean they want Putin to win. This binary logic seems to have informed Fazi’s view that the countries abstaining from the motion to condemn Russia’s invasion were therefore pro-Russia. If they were pro-Russia, they would have opposed the motion, not abstained.
A secret ballot would have produced a very different result. Never underestimate the capacity of the US to intimidate small countries. Even abstention was a very brave step to take.
Abstention is a cowardly step and not a brave one when faced with such a choice.
For me, populism is simply an anti-establishment sentiment shared by more people than the establishment can bear or even countenance.
“Populism” refers to simplistic, slogan-based “solutions” to complex issues, and usually (depending on the intelligence level of the populist politician concerned) proffered cynically, in the knowledge that the “solution” won’t work in reality – but in the hope that it will build up enough of a head of emotional steam (in a socially fractured internet age) to create short-term political changes.
This seems like a cartoon version of populism.
Mr McCusker always types like a cartoon character.
Would you class Macron as a populist? When he was elected first time around he did so having never really been in politics, and with a political party that had just been created and was effectively a one man band.
Whatever else he was, he was the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency candidate for those who needed an opponent to Le Pen.
At this point I think it’s more useful to review what we mean by populist in the first place. If all mainstream parties are complaining about rising populism then the problem isn’t the voters, it’s governments themselves.
It’s like that saying: if you met an asshole today, well that happens sometimes. If everyone you met today seemed to be an asshole, you’re the asshole.
The truth is that there is a western Liberal establishment that is progressively decoupling itself from democratic legitimacy by pursuing agendas having no use to people in.the real world. The consequence of doing that is what politicians call “populism”, and what voters call “voting out those useless tossers”.
Excellent last paragraph.
Living in Australia, the indigenous peoples are celebrated for supporting their own people. In Europe, people are vilified and branded right-wing racists for supporting their own people.
This is insanely crazy.
Indeed. When I’m in the US, I describe myself as an Indigenous European. It never goes down well.
I’m confused. Does conservative/centre right/right automatically mean populism?
I asked a similar question, but my comment has been held for approval for some reason. Populism can be left or right.
Populism can be left or right
Absolutely. The SNP for example
Populism seems to mean the party that has the most popular policies wins the election. This is not a good thing apparently.
The people you’ll be asking don’t do definitions. Just labels. They’ll never give you a straight answer.
Populist is just a derogatory label applied by unpopular politicians to their more popular rivals.
Surprised you missed one of the key issues with Marin….Klaus Schwab Young Global Leader along with Macron, Trudeau, Ahern etc… Anti-WEF is on the march again…thank god for that!
She did the right thing in respect of Ukraine support. Perhaps it was the Whiff of WEF (Klaus Schwab) that was part of her downfall – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/ygl-wef-young-global-leaders/
This article seems to have finished half-way. If “we must look to the home front” could the writer be a little more specific please?
The Soviet Union left Finland after the war on the promise that it would remain neutral. This is never mentioned.
Finland still had to toe the line, and allow some Soviet propaganda to be aired as well as remain outside any alliances it may have otherwise wanted to join. It wasn’t neutral in the true sense of the word, whereby it’s citizens could pick and choose which groups and influences it wanted to be a part of
Soviet Union hasn’t existed for thirty years.
Perhaps it’s not mentioned because it isn’t true? The Soviet Union never formally recognised Finland as a neutral state; the most it did was recognise Finland’s “aspirations to neutrality”. The 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, which included Finland, did not mention neutrality. The 1948 Fenno-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance contained military clauses which committed Finland to requesting Soviet aid in certain circumstances. This was a source of anxiety to the Finns throughout the Cold War.
Nor are the parts of Finland that Russia stole and never returned.
Are you not happy for the Finns that they are now free from colonial oppression ?
Tthe National Coalition Party is conservative, but would not label it’s self “populist”, that title would more properly fit the True Finns party (Perussuomalaiset, PS). However, this party did very well too, so one could still conclude that Finland has seen a resurgence of populism, although not represented by Petteri Orpo’s party.
The author refers to the NCP as ‘conservative’ in the piece, but the headline and thrust is about populism. It is a ‘popular’ word to throw around and pretty much always seeks to disparage and shame the ‘right’.
I agree. Much like the word “woke” is often used to disparage those on the “left”, although, as someone else commented here, there are “left” as well as “right” populists..
Populists generally refer to politicians though, but woke refers to all parts of a population. Woke was self professed and of course leapt on, because the woke are not really awake.
The lack of consistency among the various European populist parties gives me reason for hope; a rare thing on a Monday morning. Localism in governance seems like an idea whose time has come around, again. Maybe this is the first hint of the beginning of the end of The Great Leap Forward. We’ll cashier the Davos men and just ignore Trump and the trans-activists, climate alarmists and insect eaters; and get on with our lives!
Or maybe it was just a dream I had.
I have no idea why the author is even linking the election and Putin. Seems like the author was determined to write about Putin and the war, and was searching for a novel way to introduce it.
Ukraine and Trans – that is all, that is what matters.
The war will be over by the end of the summer. Ukraine’s position is dire now – Running out of men and we don’t have the capacity to the replace their ammunition at the rate they are burning through it.
Noise ! Not relevant to this article. Also untrue.
Stick to the Telegraph Pete.
Sorry. I can’t. Not a subscriber !
Anyway, I quite like living in a free country where people can’t tell me where I can and can’t go and what I can or cannot read (or comment on).
I notice you didn’t say which summer. Or even who would “win”/how it would end. But anyway, that’s not what this article is about, is it ?
The 3 main parties all finished within 1% of each other (20.7%, 20.1%, 19.9%) I think the author is reading too much into the results of this particular election that was largely campaigned on domestic finances
It bears repeating that modern populists movements do not strictly adhere to the traditional 20th century paradigm of socialist left against a capitalist laissez-faire right. It incorporates elements of both and opposes other elements of one or both. There is no recognized international populist platform as there was for socialism or for libertarianism or for that matter capitalism. There are populists of the left, the right, and many places between. It is based on anger towards the status quo, the current ruling class, the establishment, or whatever you want to label it. It is fueled by directionless anger and leads to directionless change. That is what makes it frightening to establishment regimes, the very wealthy, multinational corporations, and anyone else who has grown wealthy and successful based on the current status quo. If you’re satisfied, rich, and successful with things the way they are, the prospect of radical change is not appealing. The problem is that our current neoliberal globalist structure is continuing to concentrate power and wealth into fewer and fewer individuals, meaning that that opposition builds while support dwindles. The establishment in America are increasingly assailed from both sides, traditional union supporting, socialist, labor-centric figures like Bernie Sanders on the left and protectionist, nationalist, culture-centric figures like Trump on the right. Regardless of what flavor of populist rises to power, the establishment loses but the more they consolidate their power, the more anger and opposition they create, the more isolated they become from the people they rule. This obviously can’t continue indefinitely, and it won’t. Either oligarchs and multinational corporations will concede that they’ve lost and cede some of their power back to duly elected national and regional governments and to the people, or they will dig in and attempt to use the levers of institutional control to forcefully prevent any change, resulting in a slow buildup of pressure that would eventually be released in the form of a violent and bloody revolution that is worse for all concerned. As so many things, it depends on how reasonable people are willing to be. Given the state of our political and corporate leadership lately, I’m not optimistic.
I’ve been watching the Belgian Spring Classic cycle races and kept noticing large tractor displays in the fields. Never any explanation from the commentators. But I now realise why they are there.
I think she did pretty well considering the issues at hand. I usually loathe the international MSM in-crowd she was a part of but she was spot-on about NATO.
Populism is simply trying to appeal to a broad cross section of the public. Hitler was a populist, Gandhi was a populist, Lenin was a populist, Mussolini was a populist. And as another comment mentioned Jeremy Corbyn is a populist … ironically so is Nigel Farage. Populism has no political alignment, only a common aim.
“…What we can say about last night’s result is that it is further confirmation that European populism is on the march again…”
Is this what they call a “dog-whistle ” perchance?
Only last week, more than 20 MPs from Austria’s Freedom Party staged a walk-out when Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the national parliament.
My goodness that was so embarrassing. And it wasn’t just the FPÖ, a lot of MPs from the SPÖ (the socialist party) did too. Absolutely pathetic: just sitting quietly and listening to Zelensky without making any comment would have been enough to defend neutrality and still show respect and solidarity as far as basic values are concerned. Cringe.
The reason why the FPÖ is riding high again is because of migration. During the pandemic, there were closed borders and numbers went down. Now they are so high, the system is collapsing and major parties like the SPÖ still aren’t admitting there’s any sort of problem. This is the source of great frustration among voters – and I believe a lot of people will go for the FPÖ at the next election out of protest. Not because they believe that they are so great or suitable for government (anyone who thinks that the FPÖ are respectable government material needs their head read, they are the Army of Chaos).
Those 20 walking out was the proudest moment in years.
The Ukraine war is an obscene horror PEACE NOW.
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