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Leonid Bershidsky

Finland Provides a Reminder That Populists Can't Govern

Finnish nationalists crashed out of government after just two years -- like other European populist parties before them.
A place for Finland's populists here.

A place for Finland's populists here.

Photographer: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images
Updated on

The narrowly avoided collapse of Finland's governing coalition shows why it's almost impossible for a populist force to be successful in Western Europe. The unsuccessful government experience of the nationalist, anti-European Union, anti-immigrant Finns Party (also known as True Finns) is in line with the results of experiments elsewhere in trying to integrate such parties into mainstream politics.

In the 2015 election, the Finns ran on a platform of curbing immigration and pulling Finland out of the latest Greek bailout. They won 17.7 percent of the vote and were invited into a coalition by the two political forces that got more support (if only just slightly more). As part of the government they have presided over Finland's acceptance of the latest, 86 billion euro ($96.3 billion) bailout package for Greece and a huge increase in immigration. In 2015, as a refugee wave swept Europe, almost nine times as many people applied for asylum in the Nordic country as the previous year. And though it's been harder go get refugee status in Finland than in Sweden or Germany, it was granted to four times as many people in 2016 as in 2015.