12 July 2023

Finland’s new finance minister apologises for racist comments in 2008 blog post

12 July 2023

The finance minister in Finland’s new four-party governing coalition has apologised for racist comments made in a blog post 15 years ago.

The 2008 writings of Riikka Purra, the leader of the populist, anti-immigration Finns Party, resurfaced on Twitter and other social media platforms after she assumed her Cabinet post in late June.

Ms Purra also serves as deputy prime minister in the new centre-right government.

The post in question was shared on a site frequented by supporters of right-wing and anti-immigration policies and included racial and anti-immigrant slurs, as well as threats of violence against migrants.

During a joint news conference with Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, Ms Purra said “there is nothing to defend about the comments I wrote 15 years ago as a private person on a forum of like-minded people”.

She said: “I would no longer write like that, and I don’t do it either. My apology is completely genuine.”

Mr Orpo is the leader of the conservative National Coalition Party, which won the most votes in Finland’s April 2 general election.

The Finns Party was the runner-up.

The prime minister expressed confidence in Ms Purra and said he had no doubts about her commitment to the coalition government’s common vision for the country.

Mr Orpo said: “The government has zero tolerance when it comes to all forms of racism and extremism.

“We do not accept any form of discrimination, and all this has been laid down in the government program.”

The government would do well to clearly adopt zero tolerance for racism

The Cabinet sworn in last month, which political analysts have described as Finland’s most conservative since the Second World War, has faced other turbulence during its short time in office.

Finns Party member Vilhelm Junnila resigned as economic affairs minister 10 days into the job after he received criticism for a speech he gave in connection with a far-right memorial in the western city of Turku in 2019.

Finnish president Sauli Niinisto observed that “the government would do well to clearly adopt zero tolerance for racism”.

He added: “If the government can do that, we will also send a good signal outwards to the rest of the world.

“We must remember that racism and possible problems with immigration are two completely separate things.”

Along with Mr Orpo’s NCP and the Finns Party, the governing coalition includes the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland.

Together, the four parties hold 108 of the 200 in the Nordic nation’s parliament, or Eduskunta.

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