Finnish Economy Minister Wilhelm Junnila has resigned after ten days in office after being criticized for inciting Nazis during the election campaign.
The politician said he was stepping down to “protect the government and protect the good name of Finland”. As he put it, he could not perform his duties as a minister “satisfactorily”.
On Wednesday, Junnila survived a no-confidence motion submitted by the opposition Green Party, supported by 86 legislators but rejected by 95 deputies, and a vote of confidence in the minister.
Hanna Holopainen, a representative of the Green Party, stressed that “many references to far-right movements are not a one-time mistake, a misunderstanding or a bad joke, but a repeated, regular and friendly relationship”.
Wilhelm Zunnila is a member of the far-right, anti-immigration party Finnek, which is part of the government coalition.
In March, during the election campaign, Finnish public television YLE recorded an event in which Junnila congratulated another member of his party on candidate number 88.
“First of all, congratulations on this great candidate number. I know it’s the winning number. Obviously, this number stands for two letters 88 H, we didn’t say much about it,” Junnila said at a campaign event on March 10. , according to YLE.
88 is a well-known neo-Nazi symbol that stands for the Heil Hitler salute. According to the Jewish NGO Anti-Defamation League (ADL), it is “one of the most widely used symbols of white supremacy.”
Wilhelm Zunnila later apologized for his words, saying his comment was a “tasteless joke”. “I condemn the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and all its manifestations,” the minister wrote on his Facebook page last week.
Finland’s President Rikka Burra defended her fellow economy minister on Twitter, accusing the opposition of trying to remove Junnila because of his “inappropriate jokes”.
At the same time, Prime Minister Petteri Orbo told reporters he had given his minister a “stern warning”.
In the April election, the Finns Party came second, behind the victorious conservative National Coalition Party (KOK). These two parties formed alliances with two smaller parties. (MDI, Reuters)