President Sauli Niinistö spoke to reporters after the opening ceremony of the new parliamentary session in Helsinki on Thursday, 25 April. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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MEMBERS of the Finns Party appear to have toned down their rhetoric on immigrants, suggests President Sauli Niinistö.

Uusi Suomi asked Niinistö on Thursday to estimate whether the situation has changed since the leadership race of the populist right-wing party in mid-2017, when he expressed his disapproval with the remarks of Jussi Halla-aho, the current chairperson of the Finns Party.

“The Finns Party had its leadership race on television, and I heard the phrase ‘an immigrant is not only an aesthetic drawback’. That struck a dissonant chord in my ear. I haven’t heard comments like that lately,” replied Niinistö.

Halla-aho indicated in the run-up to the leadership election that immigration was a central theme of his campaign platform.

“How much the locals are interested in this issue came as a surprise to me in the middle of the wilderness in Salla [Finnish Lapland],” he was quoted as saying by Iltalehti in May 2017. “It’s not only an aesthetic drawback in your own town, but people realise that it’s a national problem and a national economic problem.”

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Niinistö on Thursday declined to comment on whether or not he believes the populist right-wing party can be part of the next ruling coalition, reminding that the question does not fall within his purview.

Halla-aho himself stated earlier this month that he regrets having previously expressed his fundamental views in a “needlessly brutal way”, but stopped short of disowning the statements themselves.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi