The leader of nationalist Finns Party, Jussi Halla-aho, says he rejects prejudice based on skin colour. However he had to be asked several times in an Yle interview before giving a clear answer as to whether he condemned racism or racist thinking.
Finns Party politicians have often been in the headlines and faced criticism for anti-immigrant and racist comments, such as posting images of pigs “named after” dark-skinned Finnish politicians.
The leader of the country’s largest opposition party told Yle on Friday that the party has responded to such recent cases with appropriate sanctions: one person was expelled from the party, while another was dropped from the party council.
“I have learned during my political career that our political opponents do not actually even want us to intervene in this kind of activity,” Halla-aho said in an interview broadcast on Yle’s TV1 on Friday evening.
“They want to continue to dwell on them in public and use them to denigrate the Finns Party, even though we have taken them seriously and taken steps as a result,” he told interviewer Marja Sannikka.
Halla-aho, a long-time immigration hardliner, has however himself been convicted of hate speech and more recently attracted attention with a tweet in which he appeared to mock the purported speech patterns of immigrants.
"Quite extraordinary spheres"
Halla-aho was asked categorically whether he “condemned racism or racist thinking”. He replied that Sannikka should define what kind of thinking she was referring to.
She then asked: “If someone has a lower opinion of other people because of their ethnic group, where they come from, what colour they are, do you condemn that kind of thinking?”
After a long pause, he replied: “Well, this discussion is going into quite extraordinary spheres.”
Pressed again on the question, Halla-aho responded:
“Yes, I condemn any thought that people should be treated differently depending on the colour of their skin. That I condemn,” he said.
Halla-aho calls for cuts to foreign aid, immigration costs
Turning to other topics, Halla-aho outlined his party’s strategy to boost employment.
“We should focus on eliminating those factors that first of all prevent work from being created in Finland and remaining in Finland, and which on the other hand make it less worthwhile to accept work,” he said.
Halla-aho also called for cutting back on what he labelled ‘secondary’ expenditures such as development cooperation aid, immigration-related costs and the European Union’s coronavirus stimulus package.
“Finland should stop playing at being a global social welfare office. We should stop dumping taxpayers’ money into the kinds of black holes that are not related to the core tasks of the state and municipalities, because these kinds of spending targets are being bankrolled by taxing Finnish work and entrepreneurship,” said Halla-aho.