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Finns Party chair quits ethno-nationalist group, wins re-election

Jussi Halla-aho was re-elected unopposed as party chair at the party's annual congress in Tampere.

Perussuomalaisten vaalivalvojaiset. Jussi Halla-aho ja Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo.
Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho (centre). Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Chair of the immigration-sceptic Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho says he has terminated his membership in the nationalist organisation Suomen Sisu, according to the daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The disclosure came as the paper interviewed the immigration hardliner about his links to so-called ethno-nationalists, among whom the Finns Party youth wing and Suomen Sisu count themselves.

According to HS, ethno-nationalists use a definition of Finnishness which emphasises genetic factors. Additionally, Finnish news agency STT noted that many ethno-nationalists ascribe to the view that "Finnish people mainly comprise the descendants of the groups that settled in Finland in prehistoric times."

On its website, the group says that it "supports the preservation of national states and European heritage", among other things.

Halla-aho had been an honorary member of the group from 2000, according to his own reckoning. However the Finns Party chair was reticent about his reason for leaving.

"I don’t think I’ll comment on that issue," he told the paper.

No challengers to Hall-aho's leadership

When HS pressed him on whether or not he resigned before or after he became party leader in 2017, Halla-aho said that it was after his election. However he stressed that his instalment as chairman was not related to the decision to quit the organisation.

Halla-aho was re-elected chair at the party's annual congress, which began in Tampere on Saturday. He ran unopposed as no challengers emerged to take him on. He later said that he did not want the party to depend on one individual.

However the congress did usher in a shake-up in other leadership positions as Riikka Purra was elected first vice chair. She is a political scientist and first-term MP from Kirkkonummi.

Meanwhile another Suomen Sisu member Simo Grönroos beat a field of 12 contenders to be elected party secretary and replace long-term office-holder Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo, who opted not to stand for re-election.

This year's congress was more modest in scale than the previous event that elevated Halla-aho in 2017. Back then the convention attracted 3,000 attendees, compared to 1,300 this year, of whom 1,000 were eligible to vote.

The chair of Suomen Sisu is Finns Party MP Olli Immonen. He made headlines back in 2015 when he called for a "fight against the nightmare of multiculturalism". A police investigation later found his comments did not constitute a criminal offence.

The party's third vice chair, MP Juha Eerola, had also been a member but he left in 2012.

The group had previously declared an intention to set up a network of local chapters to serve its growing membership. It currently has around 15 regional organisations.

Edit: Updated at 5.15pm with initial results of voting in Finns Party leadership elections.

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