A close leadership race would help restore public confidence in the Finns Party, views Jussi Halla-aho (PS), a Member of the European Parliament.
A close leadership race would help restore public confidence in the Finns Party, views Jussi Halla-aho (PS), a Member of the European Parliament.

Jussi Halla-aho (PS), a Member of the European Parliament, has announced his bid to become the next chairperson of the Finns Party, presumably setting the stage for a two-horse race for the leadership between himself and Sampo Terho, the chairperson of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group.

“It’d be catastrophic for the credibility of both the party and Terho, if he was anointed as the chairperson unanimously or by a crushing margin,” Halla-aho said in a video message published on Youtube on Monday.

Halla-aho enjoys the widespread support of the rank and file of the Finns Party, according to polls. Terho, on the other hand, is reportedly the favourite of the party leadership to replace the outgoing chairperson, Timo Soini.

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Soini announced that he will not seek re-election on 5 March, 2017.

“Timo has led our party for 20 years. He has never had to face a serious challenger. A situation such as that isn’t healthy, especially for such a large party,” argued Halla-aho. “If the leadership isn’t challenged, […] it’s neither necessary nor possible to develop the leadership.”

“Timo has done an enormous amount of work, but this party doesn’t need another leader as big as he was.”

Halla-aho also promised, as expected, that he will seek to adopt a tougher stance on numerous key issues, such as immigration and the European Union.

“The Finns Party’s active members and supporters widely feel that the current leadership hasn’t drawn enough attention to the issues that have contributed to the party’s success in elections,” he stated. “It’s difficult to accept and comprehend statements such as ‘immigration isn’t an important political issue’ or ‘the refugee situation is now under control in Europe’.”

Members of the Finns Party, he estimated, share the view that Finland cannot become a global welfare office where anyone has the right to walk in and start “claiming benefits and making outrageous demands”.

Terho has similarly sought to profile himself as an immigration critic after announcing his candidacy on 6 March, 2017.

Halla-aho conceded that the ideological and political differences between himself and his main rival are relatively negligible. Halla-aho, however, is considered the more outspoken and less conciliatory one of the two candidates, with his public statements resulting in convictions for ethnic agitation and breach of the sanctity of religion in 2012.

The Finns Party will select its next chairperson in its party conference in June. In addition to Halla-aho and Terho, Leena Meri (PS), a first-term Member of the Parliament from Hyvinkää, and Veera Ruoho (PS), a first-term Member of the Parliament from Espoo, have thrown their hats into the leadership ring.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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