Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 18


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2023): -0,1%.
Voter support for radical right in last elections: +3%.
Populist or authoritarian parties in government (February 2024): 1 
Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 2/14

01 Speakers

Finland was among the countries where communists enjoyed strong popular support in the post-war period. The Communist Party had been banned before and during the war but re-emerged in 1944 within the framework of the Democratic League of the People of Finland (SKDL), an umbrella organization similar to the model used in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe in the early post-war years. The SKDL garnered between 15-25 percent of the electorate from the 1940s to the 1980s. It was part of the governing coalition three times – between 1946-48, 1966-70, and again 1977–82. In 1958, it became the largest party in Finland, marking the second time in Europe that a communist party had won an election.

During the 1950s and 1960s, SKDL was equally strong with the Social Democrats, which led to fierce competition between the two parties, particularly within the trade unions. Including them in government was part of a strategy of president Urho Kekkonen that was dubbed “hugging them to death”. In the early 1970s, the party’s core shifted towards Eurocommunism, but a Stalinist faction, known as the Taistoists, remained influential. Despite their ideological differences, the Taistoists were allowed to remain within the party, largely due to threats from Moscow to withdraw funding if the party split. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the party finally split, with orthodox Marxist-Leninists forming the Democratic Alternative (Deva). Deva garnered four percent of the votes in the 1987 election but lost parliamentary representation in 1991. Most of the SKDL joined the newly formed Left Alliance (VAS) in 1990, which adopted a democratic socialist orientation.

Jouko Kajanoja, presidentail candidate for Deva in 1987.

Finland also has a longstanding tradition of agrarian-populism. In 1959, The Finnish Rural Party (SMP) was formed by its long time party leader Veikko Vennamo as a breakaway from the Agrarian Union (now the Center Party). In 1970, SMP had its best election result on a populist program with strong focus on support for farmers and unemployed. After weakening electoral support and several internal conflicts during the second half of the 1970’s, Vennamo retired from politics. He was succeeded as leader of the party by his son, the less charismatic Pekka Vennamo. The SMP however managed to return more than nine per cent of the votes in the elections in 1983, after which it joined a centre-left government coalition. Four years later, they entered a right-wing coalition, thus remaining in government for eight consistent years. The SMP was a populist, anti-establishment party with a negative view of elites (other politicians, cultural elite, academics). The party rested on Christian values and opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1971. It was also nationalist and critical of the position of the Swedish minority.

In the 1990s, the SMP finally fell apart, leading some of its prominent members, including party leader Raimo Vistbacka and party secretary Timo Soini, instead founded the True Finns Party (PS) in the fall of 1995. PS failed in their first four elections, gaining only one percent of the votes in 1999 and 2003. In 2007 support increased to four percent. The breakthrough came in 2011 when they finished third with 19 percent. Soini, party leader since 1997, got the most votes of any candidate both in EP elections in 2009 and in the national elections of 2011.

Veikko Vennamo, founder of SMP.

After the 2011 elections, PS started negotiations with the liberal-conservative Coalition Party and the Social Democrats on joining the government. However, they ultimately decided not to participate due to their opposition to the EU bailouts in the wake of the financial crisis.


Four years later, having consolidated its position as the third largest party in the subsequent election, the PS finally joined a coalition government, this time with the Coalition Party and the agrarian Center Party. Soini took the post of foreign minister and changed the course for the party; the euroscepticism was tempered and the antielitist rhetoric moderated.


In 2017, Soini stepped down as party leader and was replaced by the more radical Jussi Halla-Aho, with ties to far-right movements and influenced by American alt-right movements. Following this change, the leaders of the coalition partners declared their unwillingness to work with the PS under Halla-aho’s leadership. Consequently, all PS ministers departed the party, forming a new parliamentary group called Blue Reform. This move allowed the coalition government to persist, while the PS transitioned into the opposition.


Blue Reform failed to enter parliament after the 2019 elections, while PS once again performed well with the voters. The party had a campaign video showing a  “pissed-off monster” who attacks the country’s traitorous leaders. In 2021, Riikka Purra took over the leadership and in 2023 led the party to its best result ever: second largest with 20 percent of the votes. PS then entered government for the second time, now with the Coalition Party, the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party. PS currently holds seven posts in the government.

In recent years, PS have suffered some minor splits of more radical elements. MP Anto Turtianien was expelled in 2020 following a racist tweet, and subsequently formed a pro-Russian party (Power Belongs to the People) with neo-nazi connections. Following a split in the youth organisation of PS, another minor fascist party was established: Blue-And-Black Movement (SKL). The leader of the youth organisation, Toni Jalonen, left PS after he had called himself a “fascist” at a meeting. He had previously received criticism for posting a tweet with a picture of a black family with the comment: “vote for the True Finns Party so this does not become Finland’s future”.

Riikka Purra, current leader of PS.

In ideological terms, the PS is a national conservative party. It is conservative on social issues, while more left-leaning on economic issues. Soini once described his party as a “workers’ party without socialism”. It is in favour of increased progressivity in the tax system, state support for farmers and industry and strengthening the welfare state. It is strongly nationalist, critical against the status of the Swedish language as obligatory second language in school, instead supporting policies to strengthen the Finnish identity. It is somewhat sceptical about climate change, having called the Paris agreement “catastrophic for the economy”. 


The PS is softly Eurosceptic: it has a long-term goal of leaving the EU but in the short term it argues that Finland needs to remain in the union to defend Finnish interests. It was also against NATO membership, claiming the need for national sovereignty. The party changed its stance on this matter after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and is among the most anti-Russian of Europe’s populist parties. As of March 2024, it polls around 19 percent as the third largest party in Finland.

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 2/14


The PS has been represented in the EP since 2009. It became a founding member of the EFD, but switched to ECR after the 2014 elections. In 2019 it left ECR to join the ID group. They eventually returned to the ECR in 2023, coinciding with their participation in the new Finnish government.

PS summary

Economics: CENTER
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: HIGH