Finnish Foreign Minister and founder of the populist Finns Party Timo Soini said on Tuesday he would not run for a seat in the parliamentary election due in April.
The Finns Party gained major victories in the elections in 2011 and 2015, but broke up in 2017. Soini has since represented the Blue Future, a breakaway grouping of former Finns Party MPs and cabinet ministers.
The decision of Soini not to run will impair the chances of the breakaway populist grouping in the upcoming election. Their support level in polls is now under two percent, while the Finns Party enjoys figures over 10 percent.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Soini said his greatest contribution has been the creation of a populist party that rose from nothing and has become the second largest in the country.
While critics have said Soini brought polarization and social discord to Finland, Soini himself said it was "an honour to bring populism to the country". He said the party was originally the voice for the small person. He criticized the current Finns Party for being based on a negative view of a human being.
Commentators recalled that Soini attracted anti-immigration people to his party and they were the catalyst for the 2011 victory. But the growing anti-immigration cohort then gradually took over the party and made criticism of immigration its hallmark. The current Finns Party chairman Jussi Halla-aho was not Soini's choice as his successor.
Discussing the theoretical background of populism, Soini said populism is born out of "mistreatment and neglect of people". He claimed that it is always born as a value conservative revolt against regression and decline, and he urged researchers to give better descriptions than saying that populism "gives simple answers to major questions".
The first populist movement in Finland was the Rural Party that rose to success in the late 1960s. It disintegrated in the 1970s, much in the same way as the Finns Party did later.
Soini did not say what his career plans would be.