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Jussi Halla-aho elected Finns Party leader

Anti-immigration hardliner and eurosceptic MEP Jussi Halla-aho received a landslide victory with 949 votes. His main opponent Sampo Terho received 629 votes.

Finns Party leadership candidates Sampo Terho and Leena Meri congratulate freshly-minted party chair Jussi Halla-aho. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Members of the Finns Party have chosen MEP Jussi Halla-aho as their new chairman. Seen as leader of the far-right wing of the Finns Party, Halla-aho received a landslide victory with 949 votes while his main opponent, Culture Minister Sampo Terho received 629 votes.

During his campaign, Halla-aho positioned himself as an outsider compared to "the party elite" and focused on immigration. MEP Halla-aho has also taken a strong stand against Finland's EU membership.

Immigration to become key theme in party policy

After his win, the new chairman stated his first task is to clarify party policies. Immigration will be a key theme.

"It is important to make sure themes important to us are actively brought forward," Halla-aho said.

Halla-aho will replace incumbent Timo Soini as chairman, but is not interested in inheriting Soini's position as Foreign Minister. Pundits have speculated whether Halla-aho's victory could cause PM Juha Sipilä's government to fall apart, as Halla-aho's immigration policies are seen as too radical by other parties.

Halla-aho says he has no intention of doing so.

"The threshold for that is very high."

Convicted ethnic agitator

Halla-aho, who holds a doctoral degree in linguistics, was found guilty of ethnic agitation and disturbing religious peace in 2012 based on anti-Islamic and anti-Somali comments he had posted on his blog. He paid a small fine.

Halla-aho has served just over three years as a member of the Finnish Parliament, including a stint as chair of the Administration Committee. Immigration is one of many issues overseen by the committee.