Presidential candidate Jussi Halla-aho (Basic Finns party). LEHTIKUVA

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Presidential election slogan – Finland must be a safe place

Jussi Halla-aho, once the leader of the Basic Finns Party, currently holds the position of Speaker of the Finnish Parliament. Born on 27 April, 1971 in Tampere, Halla-aho is renowned for his tough stance and language on immigration and foreign policy, which have cultivated a significant following within the right-wing factions of Finland.

His unique appeal in the presidential race stems from his pragmatic, realistic, and unbiased approach, setting him apart from other candidates. Halla-aho openly critiques the perceived gullibility and idealism of his rivals, positioning himself as a candidate with a more grounded perspective.

Early Life

Before entering politics, Halla-aho worked as a waiter, a visa officer at the Embassy of Finland in Kyiv, and as a researcher and teacher of Old Church Slavonic at the University of Helsinki. The origins of his anti-leftist convictions can be traced to his trip to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. His adolescence also saw involvement in a speed metal band called Blashemia, where he not only played but also composed and wrote songs. In the early 1990s, Halla-aho fulfilled his civil service by working as an evening guide at a youth center, a decision he later expressed regret for, labelling it a "stupid political protest."

A linguist and a doctor of philosophy by education, Jussi Halla-aho gained prominence through his blog, Scripta, where he shared his unconventional and contentious opinion on Finland's immigration policy, multiculturalism, tolerance, freedom of expression, and political correctness since 2003.

Political journey

Halla-aho's entry into political activism can be traced back to 2000, when he joined the discussion and literature circle of the nationalist Suomen Sisu association. Halla-aho entered politics in 2008 as a Helsinki City Council member. In the 2011 parliamentary elections, he was elected MP for the Helsinki electoral district and became the chairman of the administrative committee dealing with immigration-related bills.

Halla-aho joined the Basic Finns party in 2010 and later represented it in the 2011 parliamentary elections. In 2014, he extended his political influence to the European Parliament, emerging as the second most popular candidate in the election. In 2017, Halla-aho entered the Basic Finns Party leadership election, ultimately winning the chairmanship and causing a political stir as other coalition leaders expressed reluctance to cooperate under his leadership. The party focused on criticizing immigration policy, European integration, and the common currency.

Heading into the 2019 parliamentary election, Halla-aho led the Basic Finns Party to gain one new seat, maintaining his personal popularity as he collected the most votes in the entire country, setting a new record in the Helsinki electoral district. As the leader of the opposition, Halla-aho has sought to expand the Finns party's political agenda, focusing on immigration issues and criticizing the climate policies of the government. Despite his announcement in June 2021 that he wouldn't seek re-election as party chairman, he continued to serve in parliament and municipal roles.

Halla-aho also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 2014 to 2019. He belonged to the Group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and focused extensively on immigration issues during his tenure.

Presidential elections

In his critique of the current European situation, Jussi Halla-aho attributes much of the blame to the long-standing negative developments in Russia, which he claims were either intentionally overlooked or not taken seriously by other decision-makers.

Regarding Halla-aho's presidential candidacy, Basic Finns party’s Riikka Purra asserted his suitability for the role, emphasizing that Finland requires a president willing "to challenge the mainstream when necessary." During his campaign, he championed a forthright and pragmatic approach to foreign policy, advocating for unbiased politics regarding Russian visas and expressing concerns about the alleged allowance of ISIS supporters into Finland. He also criticizes other candidates for their supposedly naive attitudes toward energy cooperation with Russia. Despite fluctuations in his party's historical stance on Russian energy, Halla-aho emphasizes the need to update thinking, especially in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, calling for a shift away from oil, coal, and gas.

However, he believes that maintaining an open channel for discussion with Russia, given that it should not signal that Finland is prepared to normalize relations unless there is a significant change in Russia's own actions.

Halla-aho has also criticized Western countries for not providing Ukraine with the necessary military support. He argued that fears about the risk of escalation have prevented the West from offering Ukraine the weapons it needs to effectively counter the Russian aggression. Halla-aho questioned the Western definition of escalation, asking whether it means Russia bombing Ukrainian cities or infrastructure beyond the war zone or attempting to target Western deliveries.

Jussi Halla-aho agrees with the transport of NATO’s nuclear weapons on Finnish soil, as he believes that NATO's strategic deterrence relies fundamentally on U.S. nuclear weapons. He has also highlighted that it would seem counterintuitive for Finland to disengage from this deterrent framework, given its advantages. However, he sees the prospect of Finland being offered nuclear weapons by any party as unlikely.

Halla-aho supports extending the native-born requirement to cabinet ministers and members of parliament, in addition to the president. Responding to YLE's question about upholding the requirement for the president to be a native-born Finnish citizen, Halla-aho supported having leaders deeply rooted in Finnish soil and suggested extending the requirement to other key political roles.

He has consistently voiced concerns about the immigration scenario in Finland, asserting that the nation does not benefit from immigrants who struggle to integrate, strain public finances, engage in criminal behavior, and contribute to the segregation observed in residential areas and schools.

The Speaker of Parliament also views that development aid is not a fundamental activity of the Finnish state and can be subject to cuts. He emphasizes the need to prioritize essential services for Finnish citizens over foreign aid.


Politics and persona

Throughout his political journey, Halla-aho's communication style, rooted in a conservative and anti-establishment ideology, has shaped his public image and the direction of Basic Finns.

In his high school days, Jussi Halla-aho wrote impactful audience section essays for Aamulehti, a major coalition-affiliated publication. These pieces, characterized by a patriotic tone, passionately highlighted the valour of war veterans and vehemently criticized the Soviet Union's dictatorship. Halla-aho's writing expressed intolerance towards Finnish politicians who displayed subservience to the Soviet Union, particularly during the occupation of the Baltic countries.

Although Halla-aho does not call himself a religious person, he contended that the church is preoccupied with considerations of real or perceived minorities, asserting that Christianity's purpose should be to fulfill the mission command.

Jussi Halla-aho has expressed his view on the political debate climate in Finland, stating that there are undemocratic and totalitarian tendencies in Finnish society. Halla-aho argued that there is a desire to limit what issues citizens and lawmakers can comment on. He mentioned a "single-truth culture" being imported from left-wing academics in the United States.

Halla-aho addressed concerns about Finland's political landscape, particularly the perceived polarization and escalating opinions. He acknowledged that Finland has traditionally maintained a fairly traditional and cooperative political culture, with well-mannered parliamentary debates. However, he pointed out a shift toward increased polarization and tribalization in Finnish politics, with people adopting a more confrontational mindset.

Jussi Halla-aho has been vocal about cutting Yle's funding and claims that Yle is ideologically inclined to the left, producing left-wing propaganda. His critique has put other candidates on the defensive, prompting them to defend Yle and its funding.

On the Middle East conflict, Halla-aho had earlier predicted Israel's continued presence in the West Bank via military control and settlements. He dismissed the likelihood of a viable Palestinian state, citing the two-state model of negotiation as stagnant over 25 years. Halla-aho argued that Israel, strategically deeming it necessary against hostile neighbours, will not withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He opposed evacuating Jewish settlements, fearing it could spark a civil war.

Challenges

In 2012, the Supreme Court of Finland ruled that Jussi Halla-aho, the chairperson of the Finns Party, must pay a 50-day fine, due to his controversial blog post published in 2008. The Supreme Court determined that Halla-aho's posts, which had a derogatory tone and inflammatory remarks about Islam and Somalis, constituted incitement to hatred against an ethnic group.

Jussi Halla-aho, admitted that some of his old blog entries from the past decade-and-a-half, contained "stupid and ill-advised" passages. He expressed regret for expressing principled views in a needlessly brutal way in the past and clarified that his aim today is to be clear and unambiguous. Although he did not maintain the same stance for the aforementioned blog post.

Halla-aho, was suspended for two weeks by his parliamentary group due to inappropriate Facebook comments in 2011. In the comments, he advocated for a military junta in Greece and tanks on the streets to crush protesters.

In 2017, he faced a 50-euro fine for driving under the influence of alcohol in Helsinki. Acknowledging the consumption of four beers before getting behind the wheel, he issued an apology.

In the lead-up to Finland's general election in 2019, the Finns Party faced controversy after releasing a campaign video depicting a monster threatening a politician, which some argued was not an incitement to violence. The video, which also featured Jussi Halla-aho, preceded an attempted attack on the former Foreign Minister Timo Soini during a campaign event. Halla-aho defended the video, stating it did not incite violence and would not be withdrawn.

In 2020, Halla-aho said the Basic Finns Party think tank, Suomen Perusta’s book titled "The Truth Provokes" was a mistake after facing criticism for its views on women. The book, described as a "philosophical study of the information and truth crisis of the left-wing populist mainstream media," sparked controversy for its content on women's sexual independence, equality, and immigration. Halla-aho defended his party, stating that the book solely represented the author’s view and not that of the party.

Halla-aho was also under fire for rejecting the opposition's demand to reconvene Parliament during the summer recess over Finance Minister Riikka Purra's past racist remarks. The Speaker defended his decision, citing a lack of urgency and external pressure. The opposition parties argued that resuming the session is crucial to prevent damage to the country's international reputation amid controversies over Purra's remarks from 15 years ago.

Interesting quotes

“Russia is bombing Ukraine with missiles and deliberately choosing to target civilians. Meanwhile we’re unwilling to give Ukraine weapons with the range required to hit targets on Russian soil,” he wrote.

“If Israel were to formally annex the West Bank and grant citizenship to all its inhabitants, the Arabs would soon become the majority in Israel due to their high birth rate, and Israel would cease to exist in a democratic order.”

“Finland does not need immigrants who do not integrate but burden the public finances, commit crimes and cause segregation in residential areas and schools.”

“During the Cold War, Criticizing the Soviet Union was socially frowned upon and could lead to political exclusion. In today's Finland and in Western countries more broadly, immigration, Islam, sexual minorities, the European Union and some other issues have become the new Soviet Union.”

“Joining the Ottawa agreement was a manifestation of gullibility, ideological blindness and disregard for the security of one's own people. Finnish mines were not a threat to civilians. The war in Ukraine has shown that they are a very effective weapon in containing the enemy's advance.”

“We have found ourselves in this current situation in Europe largely because the negative development that has been going on in Russia for a long time has either not been wanted to be seen or has not been taken seriously enough.”

“If it were possible to handle the eastern border situation only with common sense, Finland would state that in the current situation it is not justified to accept asylum applications from the people that Russia pushes to the border. We are stuck in an interpretation of international agreements that no longer corresponds to the realities and needs of today.”

HT

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