The Finnish government is facing a new crisis after a series of racist and violent comments written by Riikka Purra – leader of the far-right Finns Party, deputy prime minister and finance minister – were made public on a blog belonging to a fellow party.
The minister has recognized on social networks having written on the blog: “At that time I expressed myself in ways and words that today I absolutely do not accept and would not use.” The comments were published in 2008 on the blog of former far-right leader and current president of the Eduskunta (Finnish Parliament), Jussi Halla-aho, who was convicted in 2012 of a crime against religious peace after posting Islamophobic views on it.
Although the minister has admitted having written on the blog, she has not explicitly acknowledged being the person behind the user ‘Riikka’ – which Finnish media associates with the leader of the ultra party. In the texts, the author refers to black people with the derogatory term “neekerit”, to Muslims as “mocha penises” and to immigrants from Turkey as “Turkish monkeys”.
“If any of you are in Helsinki, does anyone sign up to spit on beggars and beat up black children?” he wrote on the blog forum in July 2008. Two months later he published a “post” in which he assured that if they gave him a weapon, “there would be corpses even on the commuter train.”
“Taken out of context and evaluated today, some texts look even worse. I do not accept any type of violence, racism or discrimination. Those who know my way of working and my values know it”, the minister pointed out in a public apology. “I apologize for my stupid online comments 15 years ago and the hurt and resentment they understandably caused.”
“I got involved in politics years after those comments. I act and communicate differently. I hope that my performance in politics will be evaluated based on what I do in my positions of trust, as a parliamentarian, minister and president of the party”, she has said.
Resignation of a minister linked to neo-Nazi groups
The matter has caused a great scandal in the country just ten days after the Minister of Economic Affairs, the far-right Vilhelm Junnila, was forced to resign for his alleged links to neo-Nazi groups after less than two weeks in office.
“I think the Finnish government would do well to take a clear stance of zero tolerance for racism. If it did, it would be a good sign to the world, ”Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told reporters on Tuesday from Lithuania, where he is participating in the NATO summit.
For his part, the prime minister, the conservative Petteri Orpo, assured the local media that he does not accept racism “in any of its forms” and affirmed that the four parties that make up the government coalition are committed to the principles of equality and equity.
Orpo was satisfied with the explanations offered by his main government partner, the leader of the Finns Party, and said that it was necessary for Purra to distance himself publicly from the violence.