Finnish Right-Wing Party Leader Apologizes After Racist Posts Surface

Finland’s deputy prime minister apologized on Tuesday for “stupid social media comments” after a series of racist and sometimes violent remarks posted in 2008 surfaced in the Finnish press — the latest scandal for the party she leads, the right-wing Finns, since it joined the country’s governing coalition less than a month ago.

Though the deputy prime minister, Riikka Purra, did not say the posts, published under the user name “riikka,” were hers, she said in a Twitter thread, “I apologize for my stupid social media comments 15 years ago and for the harm and resentment that they understandably caused. I’m not a perfect person, I’ve made mistakes.”

According to local news media reports, in posts on a right-wing blog in 2008, “riikka” repeatedly used a racist Finnish slur against Black people, described Turkish people in derogatory terms and asked if there were any like-minded people in the city on a particular day to beat Black children. The blog was hosted by the former Finns party leader Jussi Halla-aho, who was fined by Finland’s highest court for racist incitement in 2012. The comments attributed to “riikka” are not currently on the blog. The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat tracked Ms. Purra’s whereabouts in one instance and linked it to a post from that location.

Ms. Purra did acknowledge on Tuesday that she had posted on the blog “in ways and with words that today I absolutely do not accept and would not use,” though she did not identify specific posts.

Her apology came as Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, was attending the country’s first NATO meeting as a full member of the alliance. In reference to the incident at home, Mr. Niinistö urged the governing coalition to adopt a “clear zero-tolerance position to racism,” although he added that racial prejudice was different than opposing immigration.

In Finland’s recent elections, Ms. Purra’s Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party took 46 seats in the country’s 200-strong Parliament, the faction’s strongest-ever showing. Last month, Finns joined a four-party ruling coalition and picked up seven cabinet positions under Prime Minister Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition Party.

Mr. Orpo thanked Ms. Purra for “making the right decision” and gave no indication that she would be forced to resign. “The government will not fall because of this,” Mr. Orpo said.

“The government has jointly committed to the principles of nondiscrimination and equality,” Mr. Orpo wrote on Twitter. “Everyone in Finland must feel that they are safe.”

Johanna Vuorelma, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, said the recurring scandals had weakened Mr. Orpo’s coalition, although it was not in imminent danger of collapse.

Mr. Orpo’s alliance unseated the former prime minister, Sanna Marin, who now leads the country’s opposition. She wrote on Twitter, “Nothing that has come up about the party over the last few weeks has been new or surprising,” and called on the government to “directly and unequivocally renounce racism, hate speech and violence.”

Ms. Purra is not the first Finns member to have the past catch up with her.

Vilhelm Junnila, another Finns minister, resigned last month after reports in the Finnish news media of his far-right sympathies, which included him joking about a Finns candidate’s electoral number, 88, a well-known neo-Nazi code for “Heil Hitler.”



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