Scandinavia, question of identity ” “

Nordic countries, a deep reflection ranging between ancient values and modernity, with political impacts

Among the Scandinavian cold climate, populist feelings are warming up, sometimes marked by anti-immigration sentiments, but not only. Nordic populism, deeply rooted within political parties and at electoral level, has many nuances and multifarious roots. It strikes a chord with identity fears, but its appeal is also related to the crisis, to the “dilution” of traditional values, and to the deep social transformations occurred over the past decades. Finland, a cultural question. “Most of the supporters of the Finnish True Finns populist party are men with traditional values, most of whom oppose any possible change in society”, said journalist Johanna Korhonen, for whom “the question of gender diversity should be taken into due account” in the analysis of populist phenomena. The True Finns party, established in 1995, rose on the ashes of the Rural Party. In the 2011 elections it gained 19% of all votes. Those who support this political movement are characterized by fears for the future, rooted in the economic crisis and in its peculiar implication. In fact, compared to women, men find it harder to face unemployment and professional retraining. Men also bear a greater burden in terms of the crisis of the family and divorce. Given this disorientation, the True Finns party present itself as a benchmark, claiming the reaffirmation of “traditional family values”, whereby man is the householder, although in contemporary Finland gender equality is a fundamental value regulated by law, accepted by the population majority. Korhonen’s thesis is confirmed by a survey conducted by the Counterpoint Institute (UK), titled “Re-conquering reluctant radicals”. “Society continues to re-invent itself, but the picture of the traditional male figure is seriously threatened, unable to find its role in the new Finland”. Denmark: welfare is for us. Under certain aspects, the development of the Danish People’s Party followed a different course. Founded by a woman, Pia Kjærsgaard, in 1995, it is presently the third largest party in Denmark, under the lead of a moderate left-wing government. Since 2008, when the crisis shifted the focus of attention on national economy, the themes of migration, integration and Islam “have stopped being fundamental issues for Danish electors”, said Susi Meret, coordinator of the Network for research on Nordic populism. However, a set of episodes occurred in 2012, (regarding Halal meat, Christmas trees etc….) were taken as epitomes by the popular Party for a fierce anti-Muslim campaign. Now the issue of “welfare” is brandished: only if minorities assimilate Danish values – is the slogan – will they deserve access to services. For Meret, the problem resides in a “counter-debate”: “as they are concerned about the reactions to this issue on the part of potential voters, political leaders prefer not to address the subject nor the question of values”. Populists in Norway’s government. Since September 2013 elections, the markedly populist Progress Party is a member of Norway’s coalition government (Norway is not an EU member country, and therefore will not participate in the coming elections for the renewal of the European Parliament), with the conservative political group. The international press repeatedly denounced the fact that terrorist Anders B. Breivik (responsible for the 2011 attack, that caused the death of almost 80 people) had been an active member of the Party for a certain period of time. It is “an insult, even for those who don’t vote for the Progress Party”, said Elisabeth Bakke, Professor of Comparative Politics at Oslo University, on the aftermath of the elections. In fact, the turnout of the “people’s” party fell by 8 percentage points compared to the previous polls, which adds on to a further 5% decrease according to a recent survey. Sweden focuses on social media. With a leap from Oslo to Stockholm we meet Swedish Democrats, whose roots are to be found in a neo-Nazi movement which they strived to distance themselves from, managing to gain 20 Parliament seats in 2010. The issues exploited to gain consensus by its young leader Jimmie Åkesson are anti-immigration propaganda (last year’s urban strife in the suburbs of Stockholm between the police and unemployed youths went to his advantage) coupled by a significant presence on the social media, which involves a young audience, as shown in a survey conducted by Demos English institute titled “The rise of populism in Europe rebuilt through online behaviour”. The party has 5thousand members, 16thousand followers on Facebook, 63% of whom are very young, active, and motivated. Åkesson’s goal is “to continue ‘democrats’ transformation process into a modern party capable of influencing national politics”, states the UK report. The formula to oppose populism remains the same: “If traditional politicians intend to reach out to the supporters of these parties they should be brave enough to voice the defense of the positive aspects of immigration” and “learn to speak about the importance of identity without resorting to xenophobia or the demonization of minority groups”.

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