Finland’s minister for economic affairs resigned on Friday, a little more than a week after taking office, amid a flurry of scandals linking him to neo-Nazi ideology.
Vilhelm Junnila, of the far-right Finns Party, quit amid a new furore over comments he made in parliament where he said a solution for the climate crisis is to give more abortions to African women.
He called the concept “climate abortions”.
Junnila made the speech in parliament in 2019 when he was a freshman MP.
“It would be justified for Finland to shoulder its responsibility by promoting climate abortions. Climate abortion would be a small step for a person, but a giant leap for humanity,” he said at the time.
When the parliament documents re-surfaced, Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen — who has become a cause celebre for the Evangelical right-wing over her uncompromising stance on abortion and LGBTQ issues — also criticised Junnila.
“The concept of climate abortion is eco-fascist anyway without the racist connection. And eco-fascism is also an extremist movement,” said Räsänen, a former interior minister.
Junnila said he was resigning to spare Finland’s reputation, “despite the trust of the party and my parliamentary group.”
Current education minister, and leader of the Swedish People’s Party, Anna-Maja Henriksson, said it was a “wise decision” that Junnila quit his post.
On Friday, Finland’s public broadcaster Yle revealed in an investigation that Junnila had never taken any political science classes at university, despite claiming to be studying the subject.
Yle also found no proof of Junnila’s claim that he started, then sold, a tech company in Poland.
The new minister also appeared to have lost the confidence of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö who said during a Friday morning interview the situation was “very embarrassing, to say the least.”
What were Vilhelm Junnila’s other controversies?
Last week Euronews highlighted how Junnila had given a speech at an event in the southwestern city of Turku in 2019.
The event was organised by the Coalition of Nationalists, an umbrella group formed in 2017 for those on the far-right including the Finns Party, the now-banned Nordic Resistance Movement militia, and the Soldiers of Odin vigilante movement.
Experts say the event Junnila attended was a “who’s who of neo-Nazis in Finland”, with members of these shadowy extreme right-wing organisations seen in photographs standing behind Junnila as he spoke, albeit on the opposite riverbank.
The revelations caused an outcry in Finland, prompting Junnila to issue an apology for attending the event.
He also apologised for joking about the number 88, which was randomly assigned by the Finnish Election Commission as his candidate number in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
For neo-Nazis, 88 is coded shorthand for Heil Hitler, as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
He described his actions as “stupid and childish”, and said, “I have done something wrong and I am sorry for my actions.”
New issues come to light
On Wednesday, Junnila survived a vote of confidence in parliament even as new and problematic issues about him were being raised on an almost-daily basis.
Earlier this week social media posts from Junnila to his parliamentary assistant were unearthed, which included a picture of a snowman taken from the internet which resembled a Ku Klux Klan member holding a noose, with the comment “I made a snowman according to your instructions.”
There was also a birthday görüntü message featuring Adolf Hitler sent in 2013, and in 2014 he posted a picture of a gate with a swastika, writing how much he liked the design.
Junnila’s election campaign has also featured the word “get gassed” which is the same wording as Germany’s far-right AfD had used in a previous campaign.
Analysts say it sends an innocuous message on the surface to potential voters, but gives another, darker, meaning to other far-right supporters about Junnila’s thoughts on the Holocaust.