Finnish Rural Party
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|Dissolved||1995 (de facto)
2003 (de jure)
|Split from||Agrarian League|
|Succeeded by||Finns Party (de facto)|
|European Parliament group||None|
The Finnish Rural Party (Finnish: Suomen maaseudun puolue, SMP; Swedish: Finlands landsbygdsparti, FLP) was an agrarian and populist political party in Finland. Starting as a breakaway faction of the Agrarian League in 1959, the party was identified with the person of Veikko Vennamo, a former Agrarian League Member of Parliament known for his opposition to the politics of President Urho Kekkonen. Vennamo was chairman of the Finnish Rural Party between 1959 and 1979.
Support for the party was at its highest in the 1970s and 1980s, with its share of the votes reaching around 10 percent in some parliamentary elections. In the 1990s, the party fell into financial trouble, and was discontinued in 1995. The True Finns party is the successor of the Finnish Rural Party.
The founder of the Finnish Rural Party was Veikko Vennamo, leader of a faction in the Agrarian League (which was renamed Centre Party in 1965). The relations of Veikko Vennamo and the Agrarian League's strong man Urho Kekkonen were icy at best, and after Kekkonen was elected president in 1956 Vennamo ran into serious disagreement with the party secretary, Arvo Korsimo, and was excluded from the parliamentary group. As a result, he immediately founded his own party in 1959.
The Finnish Rural Party started as a protest movement, with support from the unemployed and small farmers. The state-sponsored resettlement of veterans of World War II and evacuees from ceded Karelia into independent small farms provided an independent power base to Vennamo. Vennamo was the honorary chairman of Asutusliitto, the resettler society, and the society was involved in early campaigning. For the newly founded party, the main carrying force was Vennamo, who was charismatic, a good orator and a skilled negotiator.
The Rural Party won in its best showing 18 seats in the Finnish parliament (which has 200 seats) in the 1970 election. The party got the exact same amount of MPs in the next election in 1972, but was soon after split in two as majority of the parliamentary group (12 MPs) resigned and established a new party called Finnish People's Unity Party (Suomen Kansan Yhtenäisyyden Puolue, SKYP). The party defectors accused Vennamo of autocratic leadership. Veikko Vennamo's son, Pekka Vennamo, became the party leader when his father retired in the 1980s. Vennamo Junior had neither the charisma nor the oratorical skills of his father. Other parties noticed this, and the Rural Party was taken into the cabinet in 1983. As a protest movement without a charismatic leader, burdened with ministers participating in unpopular coalitions, the party gradually lost political support.
Agricultural changes proved hard for small farmers, who sold their farms and moved to the cities. The Social Democratic Party was seen as a more credible alternative for the unemployed. Finally, the declining support of the Rural Party forced Vennamo Junior to resign. Some of the party's former MPs joined the Centre Party or retired with Vennamo. The party's last chairman and MP Raimo Vistbacka (the only one elected in 1995) was among the founders of Finns Party and became that party's first MP and chairman. The Rural Party's last party secretary Timo Soini likewise became the Finns Party's first party secretary. With the Finns Party's electoral success in the 2011 election three former Rural Party MPs returned to the parliament as the Finns Party MPs (Anssi Joutsenlahti, Lea Mäkipää, Pentti Kettunen).
Chairpersons of the parliamentary group
|Year||MPs||Votes||Share of votes|
Local council (municipal) elections
|Year||Councillors||Votes||Share of votes|
|Electoral college elections|
|Year||Candidate||Votes for SMP electors||Share of votes|
|1988||Mauno Koivisto (SDP candidate, also supported by SMP)||120,043||4.0%|
|Year||Candidate||Votes||Share of votes|
|1994||Sulo Aittoniemi||30 622 (first round)||1.0% (first round)|
- Christina Bergqvist (1 January 1999). Equal Democracies?: Gender and Politics in the Nordic Countries. Nordic Council of Ministers. pp. 319–. ISBN 978-82-00-12799-4.
- Anders Widfeldt: “A fourth phase of the extreme right? Nordic immigration-critical parties in a comparative context”. In: NORDEUROPAforum (2010:1/2), 7-31, http://edoc.hu-berlin.de/nordeuropaforum/2010-1/widfeldt-anders-7/XML/
- Raija Kaikkonen: Tina Mäkelä Smp:n johtoon Helsingin Sanomat 5.8.1991
- Pekka Väisänen: Urpo Leppäsen paluuyritys sähköisti Smp:n puoluekokouksen Helsingin Sanomat 4.7.1993
- Raija Kaikkonen: Smp:lle uusi johtaja täpärässä äänestyksessä Helsingin Sanomat 2.8.1992
- Enävaara 1979
- Räisänen 1989
- The New Radical Right Taking Shape in Finland, Kyösti Pekonen, Pertti Hynynen and Mari Kalliala; accessed 26 March 2011.