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Finland Minister Resigns Over Nazi References

James Gregory

Finland's new economy minister has resigned after just 10 days in office over remarks he made at a far-right event four years ago.

Vilhelm Junnila apologised for his remarks but has now stepped down from his ministerial position (Reuters)

Vilhelm Junnila, of the nationalist Finns Party, has been accused of making repeated Nazi references.

He apologised and survived a no-confidence vote, but announced his resignation on Friday.

Mr Junnila said he was stepping down so as not to harm the reputation of both the government and Finland.

"I see that it is impossible for me to continue as a minister in a satisfactory way," Mr Junnila added in a statement.

His resignation comes after it emerged he addressed a Nationalist Alliance event in the south-western city of Turku in 2019.

At the event, held to commemorate the victims of a stabbing in the city two years earlier, he remarked that the local party chairman's election number was 88, the same number Mr Junnila himself had in elections the same year.

The number 88 is seen among neo-Nazis as a symbol for the greeting "Heil Hitler", since H is the eighth letter in the alphabet, making 88 signify "HH".

Then, in March, Mr Junnila congratulated another candidate who received the same number at a Finns campaign event, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yle.

"First of all, congratulations on an excellent election number. I know it is a winning card. This 88 refers, of course, to the two 'H's, but let's not dwell on that," the 41-year-old is said to have joked.

Writing on social media last week, Mr Junnila said he had "done something wrong" and he was "sorry for my actions".

"I hope everyone is clear that I condemn the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and all anti-Semitic acts strongly and definitely," he added in a separate Facebook post.

Mr Junnila survived a no-confidence vote in parliament earlier this week after being accused by opposition parties of repeatedly making statements linked to the Nazis.

His resignation comes just 10 days after his party was officially sworn in as a junior partner in Finland's new right-wing coalition government.

Petteri Orpo, Finland's prime minister and leader of the National Coalition Party which came first in April's election, said Mr Junnila's resignation was the "right and only possible decision".

The Finns Party member has also been criticised for his suggestion in 2019 that Finland should promote what he called "climate abortions" in African nations, national daily Helsingin Sanomat reports.

© 2023 BBC.


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