True Finns (Finnish: Perussuomalaiset Swedish: Sannfinländarna, PS) is a nationalist political party in Finland, founded in 1995 following the dissolution of the Finnish Rural Party. The head of the movement is Timo Soini. In the 2011 Finnish parliamentary election True Finns took 19% of votes, becoming the third largest party in the Finnish Parliament and a serious challenger to the traditional ruling parties. The party combines left-wing economic policies with strongly conservative social values, and has characterised itself as a "national populist" party. In the parliament seating order, it has been placed in the center-left. Even though True Finns is a Finland-based movement with only newly emerging international connections, it has been compared by the London Financial Times with the Tea Party movement in the United States and other similar populist movements in Europe that are critical of economic globalization.
The head of the movement is Timo Soini, who has been the party's leader since 1997. Soini was the True Finns candidate in the 2006 Presidential election, and elected to the European parliament in 2009 with the highest personal vote share in the country. Soini is an enthusiastic football fan, a publicly devoted Catholic, and a supporter of the state of Israel. The rise of Soini and True Finns in the poll numbers have caused plausible speculation that the party could join the next government and that Soini could become the new prime minister. This opportunity has also raised some global concerns about the future and stability of the European Union and increased international media interest in the 2011 parliamentary election.
After its founding in 1995, it took some time before True Finns started to win credible ground in the Finnish elections. At the time of its founding the party had one MP, Raimo Vistbacka, who was reelected in the 1999 election. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, the party gained three seats. In the 2007 parliamentary election, the party gained 2 further seats for a total of 5. In the 2008 municipal election the party won the most voters in districts where the Social Democratic Party and the Left Alliance lost most. According to the party secretary, the True Finns gained most voters from the Center Party, the Social Democrats, the National Coalition, and the Left Alliance. About a third of the party voters have a yearly income in excess of 50,000 euro. In March 2011, ahead of the 2011 parliamentary election, in a poll by Finland's leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat the party reached 18.4%, ranking it as the second most popular party in Finland. The party ultimately came in third in the 2011 election.
- Policies of the party include:
- Progressive taxation and the welfare state
- Opposition to the European Union and to admission to NATO
- Abolition of mandatory Swedish on all levels of education
- State support for rural regions
- Reductions in foreign aid
- Strict limits on asylum-seekers
- Increased state investment in infrastructure and industry
- Pro-industry environmental policy
- Tougher punishment for crime
- Limiting the state financial support to cultural activity that doesn't promote Finnish identity