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Riikka Purra elected Finns Party leader

Party members voted for Purra by a clear margin at a conference in Seinäjoki. 

Riikka Purra (Finns) took nearly 60 percent of the vote when she was elected by party members to replace Jussi Halla-aho. Image: Mikko Ahmajärvi/Yle

The Finns Party's new leader is Riikka Purra, who replaces Jussi Halla-aho after his four years in charge.

The Kirkkonummi MP was the strong favourite from start to finish, and becomes the first woman to lead the party.

She received 774 votes, around 59 percent of the 1,302 votes cast at the party conference in Seinäjoki.

In second place was Tampere MP Sakari Puisto with 252 votes, and in third was Covid denialist Lohja councillor Ossi Tiihonen with 181.

Purra takes charge of a party that is consistently polling among the top three political powers in the country, and has a chance of entering government after the next election which is due in 2023.

Step towards government

Purra's elevation to the leadership is seen as a boost to the chances of a right-wing government incorporating the National Coalition Party, which had refused to co-operate with Halla-aho when he assumed the leadership in 2017 due to his convictions for incitement and record of inflammatory statements.

In her victory speech Purra said that her party would not enter a coalition government unless it took a harder line on immigration.

"If a party is not ready to tighten immigration policy, then that's game over and we don't have a possibility of co-operating [with them]," said Purra.

New chapter for the party

Halla-aho said that he was pleased that there was a clear result on the first round of voting.

"It's been a pleasure to work in the field with Riikka Purra over the last four years," said Halla-aho. "She is a well-known and loved figure to Finns Party members. I believe that this starts a good chapter for the party."

Halla-aho announced his departure just before Midsummer in a surprise move for the party, which is aligned with the far-right National Rally in France and the Alternative for Germany in the European Parliament.

He assumed the leadership in 2017 when he beat Sampo Terho in a leadership contest, prompting a split in the party, with the Blue Reform group forming from half the Finns Party MPs and remaining in government.

The remaining MPs went into opposition, led by Halla-aho. Earlier this year Purra had a complaint rejected by the Council for the Mass Media in Finland after Yle accurately reported her use of language associated with the far-right 'Great Replacement Theory'.

Vice-chairs elected

The conference also elected a new party secretary. Incumbent Simo Grönroos was ousted by deputy MP Arto Luukkanen, who is an ordained Lutheran priest and a historian.

Luukkanen won by 706 votes to 397.

In elections to the vice-chair positions, Leena Meri renewed her mandate with 79 percent of the vote. Mauri Peltokangas, a Vaasa MP currently facing charges of incitement to ethnic hatred, defeated Arja Juvonen in the election to the second deputy leadership by 649 votes to 259.

The third vice-chair position was filled by Sebastian Tynkkynen, who beat serving vice-chair Juho Eerola. In 2019, Tynkkynen was convicted of hate speech.