True Finns’ aggressive campaign style riles other parties
True Finns’ candidates and leaders seek to tone down tactics of most enthusiastic supporters
The no-holds-barred campaign style of some candidates of the True Finns party and their supporters have raised increased irritation in other parties.
Candidates of other parties report that there have been several situations in the Helsinki region where supporters of the True Finns have behaved badly.
“I have been involved in politics for 12 years and I have never seen such excesses”, says Jussi Saramo, a candidate of the Left Alliance in the Uusimaa district.
The party secretaries of the largest political parties in Finland held a meeting on Thursday primarily to discuss ground rules of the remainder of the campaign. To the chagrin of the others, Ossi Sandvik of the True Finns could not make it.
Most of the party secretaries taking part in the gathering had been told very similar stories of the activities of True Finns campaign workers.
Helsingin Sanomat was not able to reach Sandvik for comment.
Jussi Saramo had a run-in with True Finns supporters at an event in Korso in Vantaa, when he parked his caravan covered with election advertisements in what the True Finns said was a spot reserved for their chairman Timo Soini.
Accounts of the events that followed differ. True Finns’ candidate Mika Niikko says that the people involved in the incident are no longer working for his campaign.
Niikko has apologised to Saramo, although he still feels that the placement of the trailer was a deliberate provocation.
“I do not approve of being provoked when someone tries to provoke”, Niikko says. He also said that volunteers sign up for the True Finns campaign “from here and there”, and that it is not possible to know everyone beforehand.
Niikko says that divisions in the population can be seen while campaigning, and that True Finns have also been targets of aggressive behaviour. “A month ago we were not verbally abused, but now you can hear all kinds of language.”
Social Democratic Party candidate Ranbir Sodhi was told by True Finns in the Myyrmäki district of Vantaa two weeks ago that he should go back “to his own country” to be a politician.
Sodhi is a Finnish citizen who first came to Finland 22 years ago. After he presented his rebuttals, the confrontation turned into a shouting match.
“A week ago the same guys came to Tikkurila to apologise”, Sodhi says.
National Coalition Party MP Raija Vahasalo says that during her campaign event in Kirkkonummi, the True Finns were handing out leaflets at the same time, claiming that Vahasalo had favoured Swedish-speaking residents when deciding on local school funding.
Negative campaigning targeting a candidate from another party is unusual in elections in Finland.
Two local members of the True Finns, who are not candidates themselves, were behind the action. Pekka Sinisalo, the chairman of the Kirkkonummi True Finns, and a candidate in the elections, says that he confiscated the rest of the leaflets.
“I do not approve of attacking Vahasalo’s person. Election fever sometimes leads to these kinds of excesses”, Sinisalo says.
Previously in HS International Edition:
National Coalition Party campaign most conspicuous (7.4.2011)
Elections website of the Ministry of Justice