Finland’s new economy minister resigns over Nazi references

Vilhelm Junnila’s move over ‘a distasteful joke’ comes after surviving a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Vilhelm Junnila meets the press at a Finnish parliament in Helsinki
Vilhelm Junnila is a member of the Finns Party [File: Lehtikuva/Eeva-Maria Brotherus via Reuters]

Finland’s economy minister Vilhelm Junnila has resigned after just 10 days in office, according to the nationalist Finns Party, over earlier statements he had made linked to Nazis.

“For the continuation of the government and the reputation of Finland, I see that it is impossible for me to continue as a minister in a satisfactory way,” Junnila said in a statement on Friday.

He is a member of the Finns Party, part of a right-wing coalition that took office on June 20 after an April election.

On June 28, Junnila survived a no-confidence vote in parliament called by the opposition, the Green League, which accused him of repeatedly making Nazi references.

“The connections to far-right movements are not a single mistake, misunderstanding or bad humour, but rather repeated, systematic and comradely liaison,” Green League MP Hanna Holopainen said as she proposed the motion on Tuesday evening.

Finns Party chairwoman Riikka Purra defended the minister on Twitter, accusing the opposition of attempting to oust him for his “bad and ill-suited” humour.

Distasteful joke

During his election campaign, public broadcaster YLE saw Junnila congratulate his fellow party member on his candidate number, 88.

The figure is known as a neo-Nazi symbol used in place of the Heil Hitler salute referencing Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in World War II.

“First of all, congratulations for the excellent candidate number. I know it’s a winning card. Obviously, this ’88’ refers to two H letters which we won’t say more about,” Junnila said in his address at a campaign event on March 10, according to YLE.

Junnila has apologised for his choice of words, saying it was a distasteful joke.

“I condemn holocaust, antisemitism and all antisemitic acts completely,” he wrote on social media last Thursday.

In the April election, the eurosceptic, anti-immigration Finns Party came in second with 20.1 percent of the vote, right behind the National Coalition Party (NCP) at 20.8 percent.

The conservative NCP then formed a coalition with the Finns Party and two smaller groups.

Source: Reuters