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Finns Party vetoed anti-racism line in joint leaders' statement

The Finns Party vetoed an anti-racism line in a joint party leaders' statement this week, opening cracks in the broad front agreed on Wednesday calling for a "peaceful, fact-based, respectful discussion" on immigration and security issues.

Laura Huhtasaari
Laura Huhtasaari Image: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva

There is already discord over a joint statement by Finnish political party leaders agreed on Wednesday, in which they aimed to calm heated rhetoric in debate over security and immigration following last month's attacks in Turku.

The statement condemned terrorism, violence and hate speech, and also called for a "peaceful, fact-based, respectful discussion" of immigration.

The Finns Party representative at the talks has revealed that she refused to sanction wording that would have explicitly condemned racism.

"We should join together to oppose terrorists' hate speech against the west," said Huhtasaari. "The word 'racism' would not have been appropriate."

Anti-immigration, evolution

Huhtasaari has been nominated to be the Finns Party candidate in January's presidential election, as leader Jussi Halla-aho declined to stand. The first-term MP from Pori is a critic of immigration and the theory of evolution, and a former schoolteacher.

According to Huhtasaari, she believes the wording of the declaration condemning hate speech was directed at people inciting terror attacks.

"This joint statement was made so that every party could commit to it and that's why it was vague," said Huhtasaari. "To me, hate speech means the hate directed at western countries at this moment."

Universal condemnation

On Thursday Huhtasaari was reprimanded by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä for criticising Muslim immigration and 'Islamic values' in her speech during the first debate after the state opening of parliament.

"Representative Huhtasaari, we were in the same meeting," said Sipilä. "We condemned all types of hate speech then."

Hate speech is a contested term, but the European council's committee of ministers defines it as covering all forms of expressions that spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance.

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