Finnish far-right minister quits after controversies, alleged pro-Nazi comments

Vilhelm Junnila resigns after 10 days in office amid growing storm over ties to extremists, comments on Hitler, suggestion to promote abortion in Africa to tackle climate change

Finnish Economic Affairs Minister Vilhelm Junnila speaking in parliament in Helsinki. (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Finnish Economic Affairs Minister Vilhelm Junnila speaking in parliament in Helsinki. (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Finland’s new economic affairs minister Vilhelm Junnila, a member of the far-right Finns Party, announced his resignation Friday after only 10 days in office following an uproar over past alleged pro-Nazi remarks.

The resignation came just two days after Junnila, 41, survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on the issue, garnering 95 votes in favor and 86 against.

“Despite the confidence of the party and my parliamentary group… I see that it is impossible for me to continue as a minister in a satisfactory way,” Junnila said in a statement.

The vote was called by three opposition parties — the Left Alliance, the Greens and the Social Democrats — because of Junnila’s previous controversial statements and links to far-right movements.

Junnila has spoken at least at one event organized in 2019 by Kansallismielisten liittouma (Coalition of Nationalists), a far-right group with links to the anti-immigration group Soldiers of Odin.

He also joked during this year’s parliamentary elections about the election candidate number 88 being a reference to “Heil Hitler.”

In the 2015 legislative election, he campaigned under a “Gas!” slogan, which many interpreted as a reference to World War II gas chambers.

On June 22, Junnila tweeted an apology for his earlier statements: “I hope it is clear to everyone that I strongly and absolutely condemn the Holocaust, antisemitism and all antisemitic acts.”

More details emerged last Thursday, when Christian Democrat lawmaker Paivi Rasanen recalled a parliamentary question by Junnila in 2019, when he suggested that Finland should promote abortion in Africa as a measure to tackle climate change.

Finland’s new right-wing coalition government, headed by conservative Prime Minister Petteri Orpo and presented on June 20, has said it plans a major crackdown on immigration.

It intends to halve the number of UN quota refugees, establish separate social security benefit systems for immigrants and permanent residents, and tighten conditions for obtaining permanent residency and citizenship.

The anti-immigration Finns Party came second in the parliamentary elections in April, scoring their highest result ever.

Orpo appears to have conceded on the immigration crackdown in order to secure support for his six-billion-euro ($6.5 billion) austerity plan.

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