Public immigration debate remained tepid before last parliamentary election
According to a new study, some political parties steered clear of dealing with the contentious issue
According to a study published on Monday, the dialogue and debate over immigration in the last parliamentary election remained more subdued than had been anticipated.
The study was produced by the Tampere Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication (COMET) located at the School of Communication, Media and Theatre at the University of Tampere.
In the run-up to the elections, immigration was predicted to surface as one of the hottest themes in the campaign debate.
“To us researchers, it came as a surprise that the representatives of the large parties avoided any comprehensive public discussions regarding immigration issues”, researcher Susanna Vehmas says.
The immigration debate was dominated front and centre by the Finns Party (formerly the True Finns).
The established large parties, in turn, did little to comment on the Finns Party’s immigration policy views.
In the researchers’ view, the parties’ non-committal approach towards the subject is likely to have stemmed from the fact that within each party there are both those who support immigration and those who are against it.
The parties simply did not want to antagonise anybody.
Also the European economic crisis and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan directed the conversation elsewhere.
The researchers also blame reporters for the absence of any proper immigration dialogue.
“Reporters did not grill candidates from other parties about immigration issues in the same manner as they did the Finns Party candidates”, Vehmas concludes.
Immigration-critical candidates from the Finns Party helped to swell the party vote and played their own role in seeing this formerly marginal grouping score a huge success at the polls, leapfrogging over the Centre Party to become the third-largest party in Parliament, as the April elections saw Finland adopting a markedly more eurosceptic stance than earlier.
The Finns Party found little favour among their colleagues in Parliament during government formation talks, and ultimately went into opposition along with the Centrists, but their views have to some extent been reflected during the past year in the attitudes of the ruling coalition led by the National Coalition Party and the Social Democrats.
Previously in HS International Edition:
True Finns renounce racism, discrimination, and favouritism (26.5.2011)
Finland´s net immigration at exceptionally high level (27.1.2012)
Europe´s true populists (19.4.2011)
Survey: Finns´ attitudes toward immigration have become more negative (15.3.2010)
Helsinki: city of immigrants (2.3.2010)