Finnish Populists Shift Aim From Browns to Greens

Finnish Populists Shift Aim From Browns to Greens

Anti-immigrant rhetoric has been a political winner for populist parties across Europe in recent years, but as the flow of new asylum-seekers wanes, Finland's main right-wing outfit found a new way to win votes over the weekend.

In a national election defined largely by a polarizing debate over what to do about climate change, the euroskeptic nationalists of the Finns Party came in second place, just a hair behind the center-left Social Democrats. And they did it by taking square aim at climate policy.


Finland, of course, is on the front lines of climate change. A third of its territory lies above the Arctic Circle, where rapidly melting ice caps are transforming the environment both locally and globally.

But Finland is already one of the world's most environmentally-friendly countries, and the Finns party's message on this subject was simple: we've done enough.

Their beef isn't with climate science itself, but with policy proposals like higher fuel taxes, electric vehicle requirements, and restrictions on meat consumption that impose short-term pain for uncertain longer-term gains.

The Finns Party says these measures disproportionately hurt working people, particularly their supporters in the countryside, and scare away foreign companies that may choose to invest in other countries that impose fewer environmental restrictions.

What's more, Finns asks, why should a small country like Finland make more sacrifices to help the planet when progress depends almost entirely on actions taken by bigger polluters like China, the US, and India?

It's unclear whether the Finns Party will have a role in the next Finnish government, but the party's strong showing has drawn notice from other populist parties across the continent, which are hoping to make big gains in elections to the European Parliament next month.

The upshot: Several years on from the peak of the migrant crisis, Europe's populist parties need new campaign issues that resonate with their voters. Climate policy – which often imposes clear economic and lifestyle sacrifices while promising fewer tangible benefits – may be the next ripe issue for anti-establishment politicians across Europe.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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