Political Shake-ups in Europe


In the U.S., 2006 and 2008 belonged to the Democrats. Then 2010 went decidedly the other way. Who knows what 2012 holds, although approval ratings for President Obama may indicate the rightward swing could continue through the next election cycle. What is a bit out of sorts is that in Canada and Europe, economically right-wing parties have continued to gain more prominence than in recent memory (at least in my recent memory). Spiegel Online reports this story out of Finland on what the Drudge Report referred to as "Europe’s Tea Party":

Timo Soini, 48, is standing in front of "Hesburger," a fast food restaurant in the western part of Helsinki. It is shortly before 10 a.m., and he is waiting patiently for the restaurant to finally open its doors. Soini, the chairman of the right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset, or "True Finns" party, has been giving interviews for almost three hours. There are more than 250 new text messages on his mobile phone. Now he’s hungry.

It is the morning after an election that brought what the papers have called a "revolution" to Finland. Almost one in five voters voted for Soini’s party on Sunday, April 17, and now it looks like it is about to become part of the new government. A political earthquake is happening in Helsinki, one that could have reverberations throughout Europe.

Until now, the small country in the far northeastern corner of the continent was seen as a model member of the European Union. It was known for its successful export-oriented companies, liberal social policies and the best-performing school students in the Western industrialized world. It is ironic that it is here in Finland — a part of Europe that always seemed eminently European — that a movement is now coming to power that inveighs against immigrants and abortions, considers Brussels to be the "heart of darkness" and rejects all financial assistance for what it calls "wasteful countries," like Greece, Ireland and Portugal. "We were too soft on Europe," says Soini, adding that Finland should not be made to "pay for the mistakes of others."

The election result from Europe’s far north has alarmed the political establishment in Brussels. If Soini’s party becomes part of the new government, there will be more at stake than Helsinki’s traditional pro-European stance. The entire program to rescue the euro could be in jeopardy, because it has to be approved unanimously by the entire European Union. That includes both the anticipated aid for Portugal, the additional billions for the euro bailout fund and the planned reform of the fund. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt calls the Finnish election results a "reason for concern," while Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the former head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) and former German foreign minister, warns: "The outcome of the elections is a warning sign."

So what do you think? Is this an indicator that the American Tea Party will move more into elected prominence in 2012 (although supporters could argue they already made a serious impact in 2010)? Or is the movement too much on the fringe? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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