Soini defends True Finns party against accusations of xenophobia
First HS election campaign event
Accusations of anti-foreigner attitudes levelled against the populist right-of-centre True Finns party electrified the atmosphere at a public discussion organised by Helsingin Sanomat in Helsinki on Wednesday.
Helsingin Sanomat is holding a series of discussions with the various political parties in advance of the municipal elections on October 26th.
The party’s chairman, MP Timo Soini was interviewed by journalist and author Leif Salmén, who pointed out that Green League party secretary Panu Laturi had accused the True Finns of inciting xenophobia. “I don’t incite any kind of hate”, Soini insisted to the audience of about 130 people.
Salmén saw the party as having a two-tier approach to its policy toward foreigners. On the one hand, Soini is a relaxed populist, while at the same time, the party is “fishing in murky waters”.
“We Ture Finns do not hate anybody, but it is true that we are taking a fairly tight line on immigration policy”, Soini said.
Soini also denied hints from Salmén that the Ture Finns would have contacts with far right parties in Italy and Austria.
Salmén quoted the views of the party’s candidate Jussi Halla-Aho, who is running in Helsinki. Halla-Aho has said that contrary to Western culture, the Muslim culture respects power, and that Muslims feel that outsiders are “animals”.
Soini refused to specifically disavow Halla-Aho’s views. He noted, however, that although he is a candidate, Halla-Aho is not a member of the party, and that he is responsible for his own opinions. Soini added that the party’s Helsinki organisation has legally put him forward as a candidate, and that the people will decide who gets elected.
Soini also denied claims that he leads his party in a despotic manner. “But of course it is true that the chairman is responsible for everything.”
Salmén noted that it is claimed that Soini “hand-picks” the members of the party. Soini responded, saying that there are far too many membership applicants for that.
When Salmén asked why Soini does not reject members who promote a “far-right mentality”, Soini said that it was illogical to make such claims right after criticising him for hand-picking members. “It isn’t my job to be logical here, it’s yours”, Salmén said, to the delight of the audience.
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