Provocation, Escalation, Improvisation

Far-Right Outburst Hits a Nerve in Estonia and Finland

17 December 2019

Statements about the new Finnish Prime Minister by Estonia’s far-right party leader and government minister led to a brief crisis within the ruling coalition and upset diplomatic relations with Finland. Every time the Estonian far-right initiates a scandal, it demonstrates the power it holds over the other governing parties but also hurts cooperation with neighbouring countries.

On Saturday, the Estonian daily Postimees ran a headline stating “Lack of scandals hurts EKRE (…)”. On Sunday, the far-right party’s leader and Estonia’s Interior Minister Mart Helme went on a rant on his weekly talk show, insulting Finland’s newly appointed prime minister, Sanna Marin. Referencing Lenin, he said that Marin is an example of a “salesgirl becoming PM” and that the new government, led by the Finnish Social Democratic Party, represents “the historical revenge of the Reds on the Whites” and is “now desperately trying to liquidate Finland, making it a Euro-province.”

A brief crisis

Sanna Marin

This statement made the news on both sides of the Gulf of Finland and reached even the front page of the Financial Times. Marin responded indirectly on Twitter, writing: “I’m extremely proud of Finland. Here the child of a poor family can educate themselves highly and reach many goals in life. A cashier can become Prime Minister, for instance. Finland would not survive without its workers.”

Helme’s statement was condemned equally diplomatically by members of the Finns Party, EKRE’s equivalent across the gulf, with MP Riika Purra tweeting: “All politicians and decisionmakers should have a working career behind them. It’s bizarre if they don’t!”

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Aro Velmet

#DemocraCE Fellow. Editor at the publically funded cultural monthly Vikerkaar, partner journal of the Eurozine network. He holds academic posts at the University of Southern California and the University of Oxford.

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