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New leader Halla-aho to push Finns Party in nationalistic, Eurosceptic direction

In a speech held at the the Finns Party convention in Jyväskylä, Halla-aho said he has received a strong mandate, which is a clear indication of where the majority of Finns members want the party to go.

Jussi Halla-aho perussuomalaisten puoluekokouksessa Jyväskylässä .
Jussi Halla-aho. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

The newly-elected Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho announced he would bring the party towards a more nationalistic, Eurosceptic direction.

”It is fashionable to say poor people cannot be pitted against each other. It is fashionable to pretend that investments in so-called good things would not be at the disadvantage of anyone else. But it is precisely the poor who are pitted against each other and public spending is a zero-sum game,” Halla-aho addressed party members at the Finns Party convention in Jyväskylä.

Halla-aho offered nationalistic thinking as a solution.

”Because resources are limited and shrinking, all the energy used to better the world is taking away from something else. Nationalistic thinking places the people of our nation first – not because it is fun but because it the only long-term sustainable solution.”

Far-right hijack

Halla-aho went on to say he has received a strong mandate from the party, which is a clear indication of where the majority of party members want the party to go. Halla-aho received a landslide victory with 949 votes while his main opponent, Culture Minister Sampo Terho received 629 votes.

With Halla-aho’s lead, the far-right wing of the Finns Party ousted former chair and Foreign Minister Timo Soini’s more moderate wing of the populist party. MP Laura Huhtasaari was elected first vice-chair, and MPs Teuvo Hakkarainen and Juho Eerola second vice-chairs.

Huhtasaari iand Eerola are staunch followers of Halla-aho, while Hakkarainen was convicted of ethnic incitement in 2016. This means the leadership of a government coalition party has two people convicted of racist crimes. Halla-aho was found guilty of ethnic agitation and disturbing religious peace in 2012.

"EU not in Finland’s best national interests"

In his speech, Halla-aho criticised old parties for their positive attitude towards EU integration.

Halla-aho called the free movement of workers and the common currency ailments of integration. He said the free movement of workers has distorted the labour market and the euro has weakened the capacity in which member countries can control their own budgets.

The new chair said leaving the European Union is not a realistic option, as the majority of Finnish people support EU membership. Halla-aho said he believed staying in the EU is not in Finland’s best national interests in the long run. 

”Our job as the only Eurosceptic party is to instigate and maintain critical and well-founded discussion on the topic. We should, as an EU member, rid ourselves of the role of a model country, and seek allies from countries that are also sceptical about national sovereignty being nibbled away,” Halla-aho said.

Under new rule, the Finns Party will reach out to their immigration-critical colleagues, the Swedish Democrats. The Finns are already collaborating with Danish People's Party. Halla-aho said working together with foreign parties would give the Finns Party leverage in the European Parliament and the Nordic Council.

Halla-aho to stay in government

The rise of Halla-aho has raised doubts in other government coalition parties and speculation about the government collapsing.

Halla-aho continued his speech by saying that staying in government is a good option for the Finns Party, and mocked the National Coalition Party’s (NCP) recent rhetoric.

”The NCP gave out a strong statement yesterday, saying it would not be enough for the Finns to simply adhere to the government programme. Apparently we should also adhere to the NCP’s programme. This, of course, will not do. The Finns Party has its own vision, which the party leadership will reflect,” he said.

He noted that the Finns Party has not demanded changes to the current government programme, but wants clauses important to the party’s agenda to be respected.

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