The nationalist Finns Party youth organisation has deleted a racist tweet posted on its Twitter account, calling it "ill-advised".
"My tweet was thoughtless and I acted impulsively when the idea struck me. I later realised that it was misguided, but the damage was already done. I have learnt my lesson and moving forward, I will use better judgement when it comes to the organisation’s communications,” deputy chair Toni Jalonen said in a statement released on the Finns Party Youth website on Thursday. The statement did not include any specific apology.
The populist party's youth group had posted an image of a dark-skinned couple holding a baby, with text urging people to vote for the Finns Party "if you don’t want Finland’s future to look like this". The photo was copied from a Facebook post by the European Parliament.
Veiled criticism from party chair
While the Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho did not explicitly comment on the since-deleted tweet, he wrote in a Facebook post that the party's goals do not include scrutinising the genetic heritage of humans or defining and limiting Finnishness.
“Unfortunately, there is a small group of people in the youth organisation who do not seem to understand and accept the party's line and whose activities focus on harming the party and its youth organisation — for example, by attacking the party's own candidates.” Halla-aho wrote.
Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen also took a general stand on the issue by saying that in such cases, the first thing to be clarified is the motive. Toiviainen, who was on a business trip abroad, admitted she had not seen the tweet herself and could not follow the discussion around it. She said that when a message has a racist motive — that is, if the publisher of this message wanted to say that dark-skinned people do not belong to Finland and are somehow inferior — it is punishable by law.
String of hate speech convictions
Since the Finns Party was established in 1995, a number of its politicians, including immigration hardliner Halla-aho, have been convicted of online hate speech. The party split in 2017 when Halla-aho was elected chair, with co-founder Timo Soini and other more moderate party leaders leaving to form an ill-fated new party.
Halla-aho's Finns Party came close to winning April's parliamentary election, earning just one seat fewer in the new parliament than the Social Democrats, who are now trying to form a government without them. That would leave Halla-aho as opposition leader.
Several opinion polls after the election suggested that the Finns Party was the country's most popular, although an Yle survey published on Thursday showed slipping narrowly into third place.