This essay was originally posted at Tundra Tabloids in a slightly different form.
Et tu, Sampo? Sampo Terho (front right) congratulates Jussi Halla-aho on being elected chairman of The Finns
Disintegration of the Finns party
Part 2: The execution of the plan
On Monday June 12th Jussi Halla-aho was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Center Party) and Minister of Finance Petteri Orpo (National Coalition Party). The meeting took place at Kesäranta, the Prime Minister’s residence in Helsinki.
In that meeting Halla-aho stated that he would honor the agreements made by his predecessor in the party leadership and would require no changes to the government’s policy statement. He would, however, make sure that those issues in the statement that are important to the Finns party would be realized.
Regarding Timo Soini’s position as the foreign minister, Halla-aho indicated that “Soini should draw his own conclusions”. Halla-aho clearly wanted the long time leader of the party to leave his government position so he could install his own candidate to the post of Foreign minister. Halla-aho also stated that he would remain as MEP and lead the party from Brussels until the next parliamentary election. Also, he would not take any position within the Sipilä government.
A short time afterwards the leaders of the Center Party and National Coalition party issued a joint statement indicating that cooperation with the Finns party led by Halla-aho would not be possible. In the press conference Prime Minister Sipilä said that it was not really the government’s policy statement that mattered but the fact that Halla-aho would lead his party from Brussels. Sipilä also stated that he would not like a change of personnel at the position of foreign minister. Sipilä did not criticize Halla-aho’s person.
Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, on the other hand, went on to speak about “values”. He said that the values of Halla-aho and National Coalition Party are incompatible, so his party would not cooperate with the Finns party led by Halla-aho. Orpo’s moral posturing was nauseating. Also, he was Minister of Interior at the time of the migrant invasion, and was at the time severely criticized for his lack of action.
The press conference led to intense speculation about what would happen next. At that point it looked like Sipilä would resign and a new government would be formed. Sipilä could get the majority in two ways: either persuade the Social democrats to replace the Finns party or enlist the help of two minor parties, the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party, who were eager to join Sipilä’s government. However, the leader of the Social Democrats had indicated that he would not join any government unless there was a snap election immediately. The problem with the two minor parties was the fact that they would only provide a slim majority of 101-99. The media screamed that the government was in crisis. To an outsider, Sipilä’s actions seemed insane. Why should he risk his government and use such flimsy excuses?
Sauli Niinistö, the president of the republic, intervened at this point to issue a statement, in which he wondered whether Halla-aho and second deputy leader Teuvo Hakkarainen had shown insufficient remorse after their convictions for hate speech. The president (who has a legal degree) used a legal term that was normally reserved for other types of crimes. In addition, it is not customary for the president, who has no authority on the issue, to intervene in party politics.
From crisis to farce
To an outside observer it looked like Sipilä’s and Orpo’s actions were stage-managed. They were following a script, and there was nothing Halla-aho could have done to change their minds. Halla-aho’s terms were reasonable. He wasn’t asking too much. Why did they behave like that?
Today it is a known fact that both Sipilä and Orpo as well as president Niinistö knew about Soini’s plan to create a splinter group from his loyalists. The only question was how many MPs would join Soini, Jussi Niinistö, and Sampo Terho.
Tuesday 13th June was the date of the first parliamentary group meeting for the Finns party since the election of Jussi Halla-aho as party chairman. This is the moment everything turns into a farce. 20 Finns party MPs leave the room and later announce that they will form a new parliamentary group called Uusi Vaihtoehto (New Alternative).
At the same time Prime Minister Juha Sipilä is flying his jet to meet with President Sauli Niinistö at his summer residence in Naantali. In the middle of the route Sipilä turns back. The crisis is over and the meeting with the president was canceled. The government can continue but the Finns party will no longer be in it, but is replaced by the breakaway group of former Finns party parliamentarians including former party leader Soini, Jussi Niinistö and Sampo Terho.
Later Prime Minister Sipilä burns the letter of resignation intended for the president in the fireplace at his Kesäranta residence. The whole thing looks like an episode in the House of Cards. There is nothing genuine in Sipilä’s and Soini’s charade except the hunger for power and money.
“The New Alternative”
The name of the splinter group is funny in itself, since it consists of Soini loyalists whose political future is almost exactly two years long. Soini himself will get a cozy government job, probably as an ambassador, and could not care less about the future of his pals in “New Alternative”.
Soini has destroyed his credibility, altogether and everyone can see that he is only looking for a well-paid job before retirement. Few people today believe that his tenure in Sipilä’s government serves any other purpose than his own self-interest.
However, his stunt also destroyed the political careers of his loyalists. Why would they join Soini in his personal quest for money? Some of the loyalists probably know that their political future would be short anyway in a party led by Halla-aho. Sampo Terho said that the Finns party will never be in the government again if it is led by Halla-aho. But will anyone ever vote for them even if they defect to another party or start a new one, as they have hinted? Are they being paid for what they have done? Nobody knows, but there is certainly something fishy in their behaviour.
It is telling that they sent two of their most inexperienced operatives in front of the cameras to tell bogus stories about Nazi salutes and death threats. The Finnish MSM, such as the taxpayer-funded Yle, joined their charade when it took seriously the claim about Nazi salutes. They published a picture of the alleged Nazi salute. Later it turned out that the people in the picture were requesting permission to speak at the convention. The bogus claim was made by Tiina Elovaara, who is a member of “New Alternative”.
Soini, Vistbacka and their allies are now trying to create a narrative that the party was hijacked from under them. There have been claims of a secret Facebook group to recruit new members for the party. The existence of the Facebook group and the two men behind it has never been proven. However, there had been an open campaign on the internet to oust Soini from his post for several months. When Soini decided not to run, the campaign changed its goal to that of making Halla-aho the new leader of the Finns party.
There is nothing wrong in running such a campaign. This is just normal political activism, but Soini and Vistbacka are trying to make it look like there is something wrong in that. A Yle article from 3rd May tells us that Halla-aho’s candidacy in the leadership election did not cause an exceptional rise in the membership applications. There is no evidence of anybody hijacking the party. Soini and Vistbacka simply don’t want to admit that the disillusionment with Soini and his cronies is the real reason behind their defeat.
There remains one thing that the current Finns party leadership must do: they must expel the members of the “New Alternative” from the party. This will be carried out by the Finns party board, which consists of the elected leaders, representative of the parliamentary group and five people elected by the party council.
There is a risk that the party board will block the decision to expel the members of the “New Alternative”. However, the members of the board are ordinary people with a sense of justice. They have witnessed Soini’s crookedness and the breaking of his promises. They will see through his lies and deceit. They will expel him and his loyalists.
Party rules don’t allow for the existence of two separate parliamentary groups. Currently there are two groups: the official Finns party parliamentary group and the “New Alternative”. There is money at stake, since the Finns party parliamentary group receives an annual party subsidy from the taxpayer to the amount of 5 million euros. If the party board were to decide that “New alternative” parliamentary group is actually the representative of the party, the money would go to Soini and his allies. Again this is unlikely, since nobody with any integrity would do that.
Inadvertently, Soini and his partners in crime have provided the Finns party with a new beginning. The rot has been squeezed out. They can start over without the baggage of Soini and his lot.