Finland election brings NEW threat to EU: The Brexit-backing Farage fan vying for Finexit
Laura Huhtasaari, a 38-year-old former teacher, is trying to bring anti-immigration populist ideas back to mainstream Finnish politics and her campaign for the presidency has seen her reputation soar ahead of the first round of voting on Sunday.
Her Finns Party has employed tactics from a variety of populist politicians, echoing Donald Trump with her “Finland first” slogan and French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who used nationalism as a key theme in her campaign.
Her eurosceptic rhetoric sounds a lot like that of former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, even telling of her admiration for the 53-year-old’s Brexit campaign as she told supporters to “take their country back”.
She said: “I look at Nigel Farage’s example. It took 17 years, but Brexit came.
“I don’t plan to wait that long.”
She claims the EU has turned “Finland into its province” and has railed against the country’s political elite, who she argues do not represent the working class.
Huhtasaari has also demanded more immigration controls and has campaigned in favour of a burka ban – a far cry from Finland’s traditionally subdued politics.
She told Politico: “I’m here to remind people that the Finns Party is truly an alternative to the mainstream.
“I want to change the direction of Finland and take back our independence.”
"Finland is a little bit late if you compare it to other European countries – anti-immigration parties are winning and people are waking up everywhere. They’re waking up now here, too.”
The rise of the Finns Party candidate has certainly not gone unnoticed, according to Tuija Saresma, an expert on right-wing populism at the University of Jyväskylä.
She said: “She’s circulating the rhetoric of many other populist leaders.
“It doesn’t matter if what she says is true or not, her supporters still stand by her. This is a new phenomenon for Finland.
“Before the rise of the Finns Party, we were used to a very subdued form of politics.
"But that’s changing. Politics is becoming more emotional.”
Despite Huhtasaari’s incredible rise, she is unlikely to snatch the presidency.
Incumbent president Sauli Niinistö is extremely popular and recent polls suggest he will be re-elected without a major challenge.
However, Huhtasaari’s newfound niche in Finnish politics represents yet another headache for the EU and her profile shows no signs of diminishing.
Finland’s presidential elections are set to be held on 28 January, with a second round on 11 February if necessary.