Finland's current national debate linking immigration and asylum seekers to crime is simply racist and something that should be stopped, says political commentator Sini Korpinen. Korpinen joined All Points North to look at the fortunes of the Finns Party offshoot the Blue Reform and their prospects for Finland's upcoming general election.
Hardliner anti-immigrant MEP Jussi Halla-aho's election to the chair of the nationalist Finns Party in June 2017 rocked the foundation of the government coalition that included the National Coalition Party and the Centre Party. In a bid to maintain their positions in prime minister Juha Sipilä's cabinet, several Finns Party MPs and ministers exited the Finns Party to create the Blue Reform. The Blues and the Finns Party each have the 17 seats in Parliament at present, but their voter support figures couldn't be more different, with the Finns Party polling at around 10 percent to the Blue Reform's one percent.
Korpinen noted that in spite of its best efforts the Blue Reform may not win more than one or two seats in the April election, and that those MPs are likely to be installed in districts in southern Finland's Uusimaa region. The pundit remarked that the Blues have so far not been able to distinguish themselves from the parent Finns Party, which is clearly anti-immigrant and racist.
She added that support for the party is likely to come from voters who remain loyal to figures such as Foreign Minister Timo Soini and party chair Sampo Terho. Meanwhile the election may flush out members who want to survive in the cluttered political field by moving to greener pastures such as the NCP, she commented.
Commenting on the government's recent move to introduce a civics test for citizenship as well as similar proposals from the Blues, Helsinki University researcher Niko Pyrhönen said that citizenship tests are usually ineffective and that even the native population may not be able to pass them, as has been the case in countries such as the US. Moreover, they are likely to have little effect on curbing crime or immigrant crime, he added.
Tuition fees, measles and cancer treatment lead the news
Each week in our podcast we look at the top three news stories that animated our social media audience. This week readers were most drawn to Monday's press review which highlighted an article about foreigners and university tuition fees. The former marketing chief behind Angry Birds Peter Vesterbacka told the paper that foreign students can help boost Finland's economy, and that Finland could easily attract 150,000 foreign students willing to pay for English-language degree programmes.
The second most popular story was a recent measles scare that turned out to be a false alarm. In the southern city of Espoo, an unvaccinated child suspected of carrying the disease had forced a partial shutdown of the Iso Omena shopping centre on Tuesday evening. However, officials later said that the child did not have measles.
And the third most popular story this week was about a cancer therapy for children suffering from leukemia being piloted in Finland. The treatment - called CAR-T cell therapy - involves giving patients genetically modified immune cells which stimulate the immune system.
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The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.
This week's podcast episode was presented by Denise Wall and Mark Odom, with additional reporting by Denise. Our producer was Pamela Kaskinen, assisted by Anna Ercanbrack, and the sound engineer was Juha Sarkkinen.