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The Finnish "six pack" Joe state
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-06-25 11:37:23
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Midsummer in Finland means cottage, lake, beer and makkara – the Finnish sausage – not necessary in this series. It means empty cities and packed lakes, it means singing and drinking and for this year it meant the end of a month long negotiation for a government with the “six pack” agreement. There is no sarcasm into the name and humour – especially self-sarcasm - is not one of the Finnish strongpoint. For the Finns “six pack” meant the agreement between six parties from a very wide political spectrum to form a coalition government keeping the “six pack” Joes of the extreme right, the True Finns out of the government.

So the Conservatives of the kokoomus, the Social-democrats (SDP), the Centre Party (Keskusta), the Left Alliance, the Green League and the Christian Democrats joined forces to from the most controversial government in the history of Finland. And for the ones who were worrying that the extreme right is not representing they can sleep calm, Ms. Päivi Räsänen, the so called “liberal’s Nemesis” is here to make sure that even Timo Soini, the leader of the True Finns is more tolerant to immigration. And yes this woman takes over the interior office supervising immigration issues. The woman makes the Inquisition look like a yuppies’ country club and some of the things she has said have anger even the Finnish church. Her idea about immigration is far from the Christian humanitarian idealism, in her words: “It would be wise to pick and choose those (immigrant) groups that are culturally and religiously adapt here, for example give priority to persecuted Christians.” Adding in the end “Muslims are greater risk and they can be led to radicalization.” Wow, this is the new interior minister.

And as an interior minister Ms. Päivi Räsänen has power over other groups of her interest. Gay people for example who according to the chairwoman of the Christian democrats, as I wrote in an article last October, she would like to see them parading in concentration camps. And now this woman is go to coexist in the same government with Erkki Tuomioja.

Erkki Tuomioja is an exceptional Finnish politician, an old style socialist and a gentleman of the Finnish politics that looks like a professor. A quiet man with a very strong speech and solid ideas. For years Erkki Tuomioja was the man who brought balance to Paavo Lipponen’s governments – an old fashion, self-centred politician – under the roof of the Social-democratic party. A man who knows foreign policy, who knows European policies and recognizes allies and foes and their geopolitical agendas. The same time a man who has fought often in the past people like Päivi Räsänen and he has often accused her ideas for midlevel monolithic prejudice. And is not only Erkki Tuomioja who will have to coexist with the “liberal’s Nemesis”, the ministries of Culture and Sport and transport are going to be occupied from Paavo Arhinmäki and Merja Kyllönen respectfully. The chairman and the deputy chair of the Left Alliance. And let’s see how Ms. Räsänen will pass her immigration ideas. It will be ridiculous seeing the opposition supporting Ms. Räsänen while her own partners will burry her.

Of course the Green League is also part of the “six pack”, the last few years the so called environmental party of Finland has signed with the most controversy partners for a ministerial seat. Actually they were in such a rush to sign so they even signed for the creation of new nuclear plans in Finland. Their motto obviously “fight from within” in the last elections to get in this ‘within’ – translate ministerial seat – they were ready to compete the True Finns into who is more True Finn adding the Finnish crest in gigantic portions inside every single promotion material of their party. And they did it again, one more time joining the government the Finnish environmental party that every single environmental party or movement in the world avoids them or characterizes them as caricatures and farce are taking over the …ministry of environment and the ministry of Development Cooperation.

And then the three big ones. I have the feeling that Jyrki Katainen is dreaming the evolution of the conservative party to a more European style conservative party standing somewhere closer to the centre something that deepens the crisis into the Centre Party. I also have the feeling that Jyrki Katainen sees himself as something between Sarkozy and David Cameron in a Finnish way. More serious less populist, a man who feels the ground under his feet. After all controlling a so controversy government shows an ambitious man with a lot of tolerance. If he will succeed or not only time can show, the sure thing is that he feels more allergic to the True Finns than his left partners feel since he’s dreaming of a Kokkoomus that controls all the spectrum from the nationalist right to the centre-right. 

The social democrats look like they are over their internal crisis that started with the end of Liponen’s era and kept them busy the last decade. It also seems that have found back their lost identity and with the help of members like Erkki Tuomioja and definitely without members like Paavo Lipponen they are returning to their ideological foundations and traditions. This is positive for the Finnish political system especially in these times when the often mentioned recession despite all the reinsurances is not over and the Greek crisis marks another turn perhaps more difficult than the last one and with serious sequence to every single European Union’s member beyond the Euro-zone.

Last I left the Centre Party, Keskusta. The Centre Party is under serious internal crisis since the day Anneli Jäätteenmäki resigned and both, Matti Vanhanen and Mari Kiviniemi knew very well that they were nothing else than a temporary solution until something more diligent would replace them. But the crisis in the Centre Party is not just a crisis of personas but is mainly an ideological crisis since the Kekkonen era is long over for Finland and the mythical president for the Centre Party left no red book with quotes for contemporary EU Finland. The Centre Party had never had a plan B and their eight years governing and their latest partnership in the new government only postpones the explosion that is coming. I’m afraid that Katainen’s dream for a wider Conservative party will deepen their problems as I said before and furthermore might lead them to an end in the next decade when traditions will be not enough to keep them united.

The True Finns, the real “six packs” Joes from the other side will enjoy their comfortable sofas and continue in their usual populist way criticize everything. Timo will have another four years to grow in every possible dimension – traditional makkara and beer help to that – and of course scaring people with bad immigrants who will take their jobs and their wives increase his percentage. Oddly this percentage is causing problems to the six packs as well. You see the only thing that holds this 19.1% close to Timo Soini is definitely not ideology but simple contemporary populism and the others want it. After all they have the ideological background for a bonus. So that makes the new government more …challenging.

What is left? Well wish to the “six pack” government …cheers!

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