The ‘Hows’, not the ‘Whys’ or the ‘Wherefores’: The Role of Intra-party Competition in the 2011 Breakthrough of the True Finns



From minor party status, the True Finn Party (PS) claimed nearly one-fifth of the vote and almost the same proportion of parliamentary seats at the April 2011 Finnish general election. It registered the largest gains made by any party in postwar Finnish history, thus writing – in the eyes of foreign journalists at least – yet another chapter in the surge of populist radical right parties across contemporary Europe. This article, however, is concerned more with how the substantial PS vote was mobilised than with how much was mobilised. The idea is not to identify the primary causes of the PS's national breakthrough, but to explore the internal dynamics of party's explosive growth and the process of translating a large prospective vote into ‘hard votes’ through the ballot boxes. The focus is on district-level nomination strategies, the range of candidate types, the mechanics of vote optimisation and the distribution of the personal vote. With regard to the latter, the article seeks to measure and analyse the role of intra-party competition in the anatomy of party transformation and to do so by the novel means of adapting the Laakso-Taagepera index to measure the ‘effective number of co-partisans’. Significantly, at the 2011 Eduskunta election the PS exhibited the highest level of intra-party competition of any of the eight parliamentary parties.