From left to right: European Affairs Minister Sampo Terho and Simon Elo, Chair of New Alternative, are joined by Sari Essayah and Peter Östman of the Christian Democrats in Helsinki on 13 June, 2017.

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Following Saturday’s election of immigration hardliner Jussi Halla-aho as party chair, the Finns Party has collapsed in dramatic fashion. 20 former Finns Party MPs have left the party in order to form ‘New Alternative’, a splinter group that includes former Finns Party leader Timo Soini and defeated election candidate Sampo Terho.

The news came in before Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s scheduled meeting with President Sauli Niinistö, in which the Prime Minister was set to formally ask the President for permission to dissolve the government. The meeting was arranged after the Prime Minister and National Coalition leader Petteri Orpo determined they were unable to remain in government with a Finns Party led by Halla-aho.

This has now changed, as the governing coalition is able to continue with New Alternative in place of the Finns Party.

Joined by Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö, Health Minister Pirkko Mattila and Parliamentary Speaker Maria Lohela, as well as Foreign Minister Timo Soini and European Affairs Minister Sampo Terho, New Alternative announced on Tuesday afternoon that they would be ready to join the government coalition. The three-party coalition will hold 107 of the 200 seats, giving Sipilä the majority he needs.

“The group [New Alternative] is ready to continue as part of the Sipilä government with the same government programme and constitution," said MP and party chair Simon Elo during a press conference held on Tuesday.

Speaking about the reason for the sudden breakaway from the Finns Party, Elo went on to say: "Today we are not just politicians, but also acting on behalf of our country. This is not just about Jussi Halla-aho’s election, but [also] about those elements that have taken over the party.”

During his own press conference on Tuesday, Halla-aho told the press that the departure of so many MPs came to him as a surprise. "It was expected that one or a few MPs might have come to that kind of conclusion, but I didn’t expect such a large scale movement," Hallo-aho said.

“It didn’t feel good at all”, he added.

Dan Anderson – HT
Photo: Lehtikuva / Jussi Nukari

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