The Finnish political establishment has been riled up by Finns Party MP Mauri Peltokangas, who made a derogatory remark about cabinet ministers.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, the first-term MP from Vaasa called the nation's cabinet ministers “pathetic a**holes”. His statement addressed the cabinet's failure to condemn the recent attempted murder of Finns Party campaign manager for Central Finland Pekka Kataja.
Päivi Korpisaari, a professor of communications at the University of Helsinki, stressed that MPs speaking in parliament enjoy constitutional immunity. Prosecuting an MP would require a 5/6 majority vote. “However, when an MP makes statements outside a parliamentary session, such as on social media, during an election or an interview, the same rules apply to the MP as to any other citizen. The issue of defamation, for instance, may come into question,” Korpisaari told the newspaper Iltalehti. According to her, though, the level of political discourse has changed profoundly during the past 20 years.
While many found such language inappropriate, the chairman of the Finns parliamentary group, Ville Tavio, said that the threshold for sanctions against Peltokangas hasn't been exceeded and that the case is closed.
The scandal also triggered a response from Finns party leader Jussi Halla-aho. In a Tweet, he said such graphic terms should be avoided by all lawmakers.
“It’s not desirable that a representative calls ministers 'a**holes'. Nor is it desirable that a minister accuses the opposition leader of 'bulls**tting' or that a special ministerial advisor calls the opposition 'right-wing trolls'”, Halla-aho tweeted, referring to earlier remarks by Education Minister Li Andersson of the Left Alliance and her special adviser Dan Koivulaakso.
Ministeriä riennettiin taannoin puolustamaan argumentilla, että "kyllä paskapuhetta saa kutsua paskapuheeksi". Samalla logiikalla kai sitten persereikääkin saa kutsua persereiäksi.— Jussi Halla-aho (@Halla_aho) July 28, 2020
Itse soisin, että kummassakin tapauksessa valitaan vähemmän graafinen ilmaisu.
Earlier Andersson said Halla-aho lied when he suggested that the green policies pursued by the Left would effectively render parts of the country uninhabitable. “To put it bluntly, that’s bulls**t,” Andersson retorted.
“Many rushed to defend the minister by saying it’s allowed to call bulls**t bulls**t,” Halla-aho wrote. “By the same logic, it’s allowed to call an a**hole an a**hole. I’d prefer, however, if people had chosen less graphic expressions in both cases."
Halla-aho also suggested that Peltokangas faces no reprocussions. According to him, his comments will be estimated by voters. “That should suffice as a democratic control mechanism,” he assumed.
At 17.5 percent, the nationalist Finns Party is the country's second-largest group in parliament, yet they were shut out of government by a progressive red-green alliance of five left-of-the-centre parties following the 2019 general election.
The Finns are no strangers to scandals. Its MP and former leader of the Finnish Youth Sebastian Tynkkynen was convicted in 2019 of posting anti-Islam messages on social media. Even party chairman Jussi Halla-aho has been convicted of hate speech for likening Islam to paedophilia and suggesting that Somalis are predisposed to stealing and living off welfare.