Finland’s center-right government, led by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, has survived a no-confidence motion from three opposition parties on Friday, September 8, 2023. The motion was triggered by a racism scandal involving two ministers from the right-wing populist Finns Party, which is part of the governing coalition.
The Finns Party’s leader and finance minister, Riikka Purra, and economic affairs minister, Wille Rydman, have faced criticism for their writings from 2008 and 2016, which were deemed racist and discriminatory against foreigners, especially those from outside the European Union. The opposition parties accused the government of not distancing itself enough from the ministers’ views and not doing enough to combat intolerance and discrimination in Finland, a country of 5.5 million that became NATO’s 31st member in April.
The government defended its record on promoting equality and diversity, and said it had agreed on policies and principles to tackle racism last week. However, the opposition said the move was too late and lacked concrete measures.
The no-confidence motion was voted down by 106 to 65 in the parliament, or Eduskunta. The government’s 19-member coalition consists of Orpo’s conservative National Coalition Party, the Finns Party, the smaller Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland. Together, they hold 108 of the 200 seats in the parliament.
The racism scandal has shaken the political scene in Finland, which has become increasingly polarized in recent years, especially on issues such as immigration that the Finns Party wants to restrict. The party denies that it discriminates against foreigners and claims to represent the interests of ordinary Finns.
Political analysts say Orpo’s Cabinet is Finland’s most conservative since World War II. It has faced major turbulence during its short time in office since June, when it took over from a caretaker government after Orpo’s party won the most seats in April’s general election. In July, Purra apologized for racist comments in a blog post 15 years ago that resurfaced on social media after she assumed her Cabinet post.