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Euroscepticism as Political Opportunity. Comparing the Euroscepticism of the Finnish and Swedish Populist Parties

Markus Ketola, Johan Nordensvard

Scandinavian countries have seen a rise in right wing populist parties in the last decades. In both Finland and Sweden far right populist parties have joined the national parliament. There is, however, an interesting difference in the role of Euroscepticism plays in the far right populist discourse in these countries. Whilst the Finns party (Perussuomalaiset) is one of the most successful populist right wing parties in Europe, its success is based on a distinct strategy that shies away from the standard strategies employed by right wing parties that tend to focus on immigration and systemic critiques. Instead, the Finns party draws heavily on Eurosceptic attitudes in its public discourse. In Sweden, Euroscepticism plays a very small role in the largest right wing populist party, Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna). The Swedish Eurosceptic party Juni-listan had some success in the EU election 2004 but has since then lost electoral support. Why has Euroscepticism created such an effective political strategy for the Finns party where an anti-immigration agenda has played a similar role in the success of Swedish far right populism? This paper argues that the strict immigration policies in Finland have mainstreamed policies that elsewhere in Europe have remained in the domain of the far right, thus leaving the Finns party with little option but to focus on Europe in its quest to create a unique and popular political identity in the Finnish political landscape. In contrast, the Swedish government and political discourse have been more Eurosceptic than Finland and has therefore given less space for Eurosceptic far right parties.



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