THE PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS of the Green League and Left Alliance have confirm they will submit motions of no confidence against Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) and Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman (PS).
The Left Alliance on Thursday declared that its parliamentary group will submit the motion regardless of the content of the upcoming government statement on equality and non-discrimination.
“A person who does not respect equality and the inviolability of human dignity, which form the core of our constitution, cannot serve as a cabinet minister. Purra’s blatantly racist writings reflect attitudes that cannot be tolerated in cabinet members. The same applies to Rydman,” argued Veronika Honkasalo, a deputy chairperson of the Left Alliance.
She added in the press release that the main problem is not the past statements of the cabinet members but rather the government programme and the policy proposals it contains.
“Separating the social security of immigrants, making the level of unemployment security contingent on language skills, undermining the right to health care for undocumented immigrants, minimising the reception allowance and making agreements on reasonably priced rental housing temporary are all measures that leave people who have moved to Finland in an increasingly unequal position,” wrote Honkasalo.
Also the Green League will submit motions of confidence against Purra and Rydman, according to Atte Harjanne, the chairperson of the Green Parliamentary Group. Harjanne on Thursday justified the decision with the past statements of the two cabinet members and their reaction to the ensuing public debate.
“They have tried to twist the issue to blame the media or some other party for [the reaction to the statements]. That does not invoke confidence,” he said.
Purra has repeatedly accused the media of not only ignoring the context and linguistic nuances of the racist statements, but also refusing to correct errors in reporting or doing so belatedly, such as the use of the plural when writing about her use of the phrase “a Turkish ape”.
The belated corrections, she argued, have been particularly damaging when the claims have been picked up by international media. “It has been impossible to correct them there,” she stated at the party conference of the Finns Party in Tampere in mid-August.
“Bad, racist, fascist, a Nazi. A bad, bad, bad, bad person,” she characterised the reporting in her emotional address. “They relied on the media to whip up mass hysteria that was founded on an image of the world we know from children’s television shows.”
The motions of no confidence could prove difficult especially for the Swedish People’s Party.
The party has suggested repeatedly that it may not be able to back the two ministers in a motion of no confidence. With Purra and Rydman both refusing to apologise despite the demands of the Swedish People’s Party, the party has turned its attention to the government statement on equality and non-discrimination, framing it as the decisive factor for the future of the ruling coalition.
“[It] could be a new start for the government,” envisaged Minister of Youth, Sports and Physical Activity Sandra Bergqvist (SFP) envisaged in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat.
Minister of Education Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) on Monday morning said the government statement is not yet ready for presentation to the Swedish People’s Parliamentary Group, which will conclude its summer meeting in Åland on Tuesday.
“There are still things to iron out. We’ve got a bit closer, and most of the text is in my understanding in a pretty good place, but there’s still work to be done,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat.
Purra, in turn, has reminded that the statement will not and cannot deviate from the contents of the government programme.
“The statement isn’t the second round of government formation negotiations,” she stated at a meeting of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group in Kokkola on Tuesday, 22 August. “Once the statement has been approved within the government, it has been approved and that must be enough. It must put an end to rushing after things that have been dug up from the past, it must put an end to public misgivings and belittling, it must put an end to uncertainty within the government.”
The Centre, meanwhile, has hinted at the possibility of voting for confidence in Purra and Rydman – all the while accusing the populist right-wing party of espousing hard values, breaking election promises, disrespecting and lying.
“If – and the emphasis is on the word ‘if’ – the statement is clear and upright in terms of its content and if all ministers are committed to it, I think the statement should be supported by the entire parliament. This is my proposal,” Annika Saarikko, the chairperson of the Centre, stated at the summer meeting of the Centre Parliamentary Group in Tampere on Tuesday, 22 August.
There seems to be a rational explanation for the somewhat unexpected proposal. The Centre may relish the opportunity to exact payback, over a period that is longer than a couple of months, for its treatment in the past four years by the Finns Party.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT