Contemporary populism in Finland is limited to the Finns Party (FP) and its fraction known as the Blue Reform. With their repeated electoral success in 2011 and 2015, the FP has proven itself to be a firm challenger to the country’s established parties. Their combination of left-wing welfare economic policies and right-wing conservative values – such as nationalism, cultural protectionism, and xenophobia – seems to have captured the emotions and interest of ordinary Finns, potentially building a permanent base of electoral support.

Located in Northern Europe, Finland, officially the Republic of Finland, is a parliamentary democracy and the 25th-most populous country in Europe. As one of the world’s northernmost and geographically remote countries, Finland faces major repercussions from global climate change (Statics Finland, 2016). Mainstream Finnish parties are therefore in full agreement: the must tackle the impacts of climate change through national policies for emission mitigation, improved renewable energy sources, and self-sufficient electrical production. The country’s right-wing populists, however, differ widely the mainstream on what needs to be done to address climate change. They believe the country has already done more than enough; further aggressive policies are part of an elitist project designed to hurt the working class (New York Times, 2019). This populist approach to climate change is increasingly polarizing the Finnish public, overshadowed other hotly debated topics such as the nation’s generous welfare system and immigration.

Populism is by no means a new phenomenon in Finland. Right-wing populism as we understand it today dates back to the foundation of the Finnish Family Farmers Association in 1959. The Association later changed its name to the Finnish Rural Party (SMF) in 1966. The SMF was heavily associated with its archetypal far-right charismatic leader Veikko Vennamo. Although Vennamo failed to enjoy any significant electoral success throughout his long political career, he is known as “the grandfather of Finnish populism” (Matheson, Sänkiaho, 1975). Equipped with simple populist slogans that appealed to the disadvantaged and low-income segments of society, Vennamo’s main targets were the center-left governments of the 1960s and 1970s, who he portrayed as corrupt and self-serving. His anti-elitist position played an important role in developing anti-establishment sentiments at the historical core of Finnish populism.

Electoral support for the SMF reached its apex in the 1970 general election, with the party securing some 10 percent of total votes and 18 seats in Parliament. After a decade of a gradual loss of electoral support, the party then made another major showing in the 1983 general election, securing almost 10 percent of all votes and winning 17 seats. The late 1980s, however, marked the beginning of an inevitable decline for the SMF. It initially fell into financial problems and then de facto dissolved in 1995.

With the collapse of the SMF, the right-wing populist flag was taken over by the True Finns (TF) – Perussuomalaiset – in October 1995. The TF, today known as The Finns Party (FP), had relatively little electoral success until 2011, with a total vote share ranging from one to four percent. The European sovereign debt crisis, which began in 2008 with the collapse of Iceland’s banking system, marked the return of Finnish populism as a noteworthy political force. Capitalizing on anti-establishment sentiment, Timo Soini, then the leader of the party, embarked on a nationwide campaign that accused the corrupt ruling elites of perpetrating a fraud on its people by agreeing to bail out “spendthrift” countries in the south, namely Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Greece, and Ireland. Soini also employed a strident Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant rhetoric in the run-up to the 2011 general election. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 2011 election was a historic triumph for the FP, as the party secured almost 20 percent of total votes and 39 of the 200 seats in Parliament. Becoming the third-largest party in the country, the FP then repeated its electoral success in 2015, proving that it was not just a flash in the pan but a permanent political force in Finnish politics. Following the parliamentary election of 2015, the FP formed a coalition government with the Center Party and the National Coalition Party, bringing a strident anti-bailout and Eurosceptic bent into the governing coalition.

Soini is a proud populist. Unlike many of his counterparts in Europe, he has never shied away from the word populist because it, he believes, is good news for the poor (Lehtola, 2020). “It’s used as a kind of weapon to label the newcomers who are challenging the old parties and the establishment. This is the establishment’s way of nullifying the challenger, to label it bad or immoral,” he said (Dougall, 2020). After leaving politics in early 2020, he even wrote a book on Finnish populism.

Upon Soini’s March 2017 decision to quit the party’s leadership, Jussi Halla-aho was elected as party chairman in June of the same year. Halla-aho’s election, however, led to a high degree of polarisation within the party. Nineteen MPs resigned from the FP on June 13, 2017, and formed a new parliamentary group under the name New Alternative, which was later renamed the Blue Reform. The FP losing almost half of its seats had a little impact on the governing coalition, as the Blue Reform agreed to stay in the government.

The FP’s main ideological focus revolves around a right-leaning agenda such as anti-immigration, Finnish nationalism, economic nationalism, Euroscepticism, and social conservatism. The party’s 2019 election manifesto emphasized that immigration is equivalent to throwing away money and resources (Vote Finland Back, 2019). Immigration, the party executives believe, has increased the incidence of crime and brought insecurity to Finland, while eroding societal values that are associated with Finnish culture (Vote Finland Back). While migrants live “comfortably” on Finnish social security payments, the FP claims, Finnish children go to schools “plagued by mold and bad indoor air” (Vote Finland Back). The fight against social inequality and poverty, as well as an expansion of the welfare state for Finnish citizens, are also among the party’s main ideological drivers.

The FP is also a constant promoter of organizational Euroscepticism. Because the mainstream political parties are largely in favor of European integration, the FP’s Eurosceptic stance has increasingly been a defining issue for the party. Indeed, party executives often draw attention for their Eurosceptic discourses (Vanttinen, 2020). Laura Huhtasaari, the FP’s 2018 presidential candidate, said that she would definitely support Finland’s withdrawal from the EU because her country is the “loser and funder” of the Eurozone project: “I do not want Finland to become a province of the EU; Finns must stand up for Finland’s interests” (Rosendahl, Forsell, 2017).

The FP also differs dramatically from all other Finnish political parties on the fight against climate change. The FP is in favor of slowing down Finland’s efforts to address global warming. According to Halla-aho, strong measures are taken to curb climate change “wreck the Finnish economy and industry and destroy the fruits of decades of work by citizens” (Rosane, 2019). Resistance to addressing climate change is increasingly becoming one of the FP’s major policies, overshadowing even the most hotly debated issues, such as the nation’s generous welfare system and immigration.

In terms of civil and political liberties, Finland is a free country (Freedom House, 2020). Liberties are strongly respected, and voters enjoy regular and competitive multiparty elections. With its independent media and strong civil society actors, the country often dominates the rankings of the world’s best-performing democracies. It scores highly in many categories such as personal freedom, freedom of speech, same-sex relationships, and religious liberties. The country is indeed one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1971, while same-sex couples were granted full adoption rights by the Finnish Parliament in 2014. In terms of religious rights and freedoms, Finland maintains a healthy focus on religious minorities, Muslims in particular.

Although there are currently six (6) populist political parties in Finland,[1] only one of them –the FP – has so far managed to unlock a viable space in Finish politics. Contemporary populism in the country is limited to the Finns Party and its aforementioned fraction known as the Blue Reform. With their repeated electoral success in 2011 and 2015, the FP populists have proven themselves to be firm challengers to the established old parties. Their combination of left-wing welfare state economic policies and right-wing conservative values – such as nationalism, cultural protectionism, and xenophobia – seems to have captured the emotions and interest of ordinary Finns, potentially building a permanent base of electoral support. Equipped with anti-immigrant, Europhobic rhetoric, as well as global warming denial, the Finish populists now have the potential to increase their influence within the party system and on other mainstream parties.

July 28, 2020.


— (2016). “Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and vulnerability assessment.” Statistic Finland. (accessed on July 24, 2020).

— (2019). “Freedom in the World 2020 Narrative Report for Finland.” Freedom House. (accessed on July 24, 2020).

— (2019). “Vote Finland Back.” The Finns Party’s Election Program 2019. (accessed on July 24, 2020).

Dougall, David Mac. (2020). “Timo Soini interview: The unrepentant father of Finnish populism” News Now Finland. January 14, 2020. on July 24, 2020).

Herkman, Juha. (2017).  “The Finns Party: Euroscepticism, Euro Crisis, Populism and the Media,” Media and Communication. 5(2):1.

Lehtola, Jorma. (2020). “Timo Soini palasi julkisuuteen: Populismi on tämänpuoleista gospelia, ilosanomaa köyhille – Kirja populismista,” APU. January 13, 2020. (accessed on July 24, 2020).

Lemola, Johanna. (2019). “The Finns Party Campaigned Against Climate Action. It Came in 2nd.” New York Times. April 15, 2019. (accessed on July 24, 2020).

Matheson, David, Risto Sänkiaho. (1975). “The Split in the Finnish Rural Party: Populism in Decline in Finland.”Scandinavian Political Studies, 10. January 1, 1975. Retrieved from

Rosane, Olivia. (2019). “Climate Change Emerges as Key Issue in Close Finland Election.” Eco Watch. April 15, 2019. (accessed on July 24, 2020).

Rosendahl, Jussi, Tuomas Forsell. (2017). “Presidential hopeful wants Finland out of EU, says nationalists will bounce back.” Reuters. December 13, 2017. (accessed on July 24, 2020).

Vanttinen, Pekka. (2020). “Far-right Finns party demands eurozone exit, again.” Euractiv. May 22, 2020. on July 24, 2020).


Geographic Location: Northern Europe

Area: 338,145 sq. km

Regime: Parliamentary Republic

Population: 5,571,665 (July 2020 est.)

Ethnic Groups: Finn, Swede, Russian, Estonian, Romani, Sami

Languages (2018 est.): Finnish (official) 87.6%, Swedish (official) 5.2%, Russian 1.4%, Other 5.8%

Religions (2018 est.): Lutheran 69.8%, Greek Orthodox 1.1%, Other 1.7%, Unspecified 27.4%

GDP (PPP): $276,700 billion (2018)

GDP Per Capita (PPP): $50,152 (2018 est.)

Socio-political situation: Stable

Main Populism Factors:

  • Right-wing populism
  • Islamophobia
  • Anti-immigration
  • Finnish nationalism
  • Left-wing populism

Regime’s Character: Full Democracy

Score: 92/100


Perussuomalaiset, PS (The Finns Party)


Leader: Jussi Halla-aho

Ideology: Finnish nationalism, national conservatism, economic nationalism, social conservatism, right-wing populism, Euroscepticism, anti-immigration

Populism: Right-wing authoritarian

Position: 39/200 seats

Sininen tulevaisuus, SIN (Blue Reform)


Leader: Kari Kulmala

Ideology: Populism, economic liberalism, national conservatism, soft Euroscepticism

Populism: Right-wing authoritarian

Position: 0/200 seats