The Finns Party’s youth wing has rejected a proposal to restrict membership to people who also hold membership of the main party, after a scandal in which the youth wing’s leading lights expressed extremist views and one declared himself a fascist.
Requiring membership of the Finns Party would allow the senior organisation to discipline and expel members of the youth wing. The senior party now says it will establish a new youth wing to replace the old one.
At a special meeting in Tampere the youth wing voted 56-45 against adopting the rule change. Approval of the rule change would have required a two-thirds majority.
"It's a shame for the youth wing and the party that it went like this," said the youth wing's chair Asseri Kinnunen. "Now we'll consider with the board what to do."
Senior party considering links
Jussi Halla-aho, the leader of the Finns Party, has expressed his annoyance at repeated outbursts from members of the party’s youth wing in which they have openly espoused ethno-nationalist ideas.
The latest incident came when Toni Jalonen, vice-chair of the youth wing, declared himself a fascist in a speech at a meeting of hard-right groups called by Blue Awakening, the youth wing of Estonia’s nationalist EKRE party.
Jalonen’s expenses for the Tallinn trip were paid by the Finns Party’s youth wing. He subsequently resigned his position as vice-chair.
The Finns Party said it would start disciplinary proceedings against Jalonen, but even if he is expelled he would still be a member of the youth wing as it does not require members to also hold membership of the senior party.
Saturday’s meeting was called to close that loophole, and Halla-aho had said the party would consider whether to maintain its links with the youth wing if the rule change was not adopted.
After the vote party secretary Simo Grönroos told STT that the party would establish a new youth organisation.
"Of course it is important that the party has its own youth organisation, so yes the party will found its own youth wing," said Grönroos.
Senior positions in the youth wing had been won by individuals who call themselves ethno-nationalists, that is, people who explicitly define nationality by skin colour and bloodlines.
The youth wing has previously lost 115,000 euros of state funding in 2019 after publishing a racist election advert. This year it got 91,000 euros in funding from the Ministry of Culture.
Halla-aho has staunchly defended other Finns Party members who have made questionable comments, including one MP who compared asylum seekers to an ‘invasive species’.
Strong defence for some
Prosecutors looked at charging Juha Mäenpää for incitement over that speech, Halla-aho said his 39 MPs would block the move. Prosecuting an MP requires the approval of five-sixths of the 200 MPs in the legislature, so Halla-aho's 39-strong group is enough to prevent charges proceeding.
Another MP, Ano Turtiainen, was staunchly defended by Halla-aho when he was reported by a police officer for incitement and crudely criticised the officer concerned.
EDIT - This story has been edited to include the Finns Party's response and comments from the party secretary.