Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Finland’s Government Crisis Resolved Last Minute By Unexpected Rupture Of The Finns Party

Via Business Insider:

Monday’s political crisis caused by the election of hard-line ultra-nationalists at the Finns Party conference last weekend has passed – but not for the Finns Party itself. While driving to the President’s Naantali summer residence to hand in the government’s resignation, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä got the news that over 20 Finns Party MPs had resigned from their party and formed a new parliamentary group called ‘New Alternative’.

Sipilä turned round and held a different media conference at Turku Airport to explain that, “There is now no need to resign,” and that the government would continue – subject to a vote of confidence – with the new band of defectors. The split in the Finns Party started Tuesday morning when two MPs announced they could not accept the new leadership under party chair Jussi Halla-aho and his fellow travellers who are virulently anti-EU and anti-immigration to the point of being racist. Resignations then flooded out to the media.

The final figure of rebels is 21 with one wavering, leaving the Finns Party bloc just 15 MPs. But all the big guns, meaning three ministers, speaker of the Eduskuntatalo (parliament) and parliamentary group leader were all among the band who jumped from the FP ship. First and foremost was ex-FP leader for 20 years until last Saturday and current Foreign Minister Timo Soini.

“The group is ready to continue as part of the Sipilä government with the same programme and constitution,” said MP Simon Elo, who is now the new grouping’s spokesman.

“Today we are not just politicians but also acting on behalf of our country. It’s not just about Halla-aho’s election, but those elements that have taken over the party.” He echoed many others stating that the party was not now the one he joined.

The swiftness and decisiveness of the split caught commentators and others completely by surprise – none more so than the new Finns Party leader himself. “It was expected that one or a few MPs might go, but I didn’t expect such a large scale movement”, he bleated.

“Among the people (who have gone) were individuals of whom I would have least expected. All were disappointing, but some more than others”.

His rump Finns Party is left with just 15 MPs now and the rift has rippled out throughout local government too. While the scale came as a shock, the reasoning behind it was obvious. Halla-aho and his cohorts now in charge of the Finns Party have a chequered past of blatant racist comments and speeches not to mention his position as MEP when holding strong anti-EU opinions. This attracted accusations of hypocrisy due to his willingness to take Brussels money while still intending to run the party from there.

Other losers, though on a much smaller scale, are the two parties that were swilling to step into the void left by the Finns Party. The Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats are now dreaming of what might have been. But they would have only brought 15 MPs, leaving a putative coalition with a majority of just one with 101 seats in the 200-seat parliament.

With a minimum of 21 MPs, the ‘new’ government of the Centre and National Coalition parties with New Alternative has a more comfortable 107. Maria Louhela, still Speaker and New Alternative member said that a vote of confidence would probably take place next week. So while the government may breathe a sigh of relief, for the Finns Party it will be a sharp intake of breath and an aspirin to ease the sudden headache and find a new image to replace its current tarnished reputation, as many media have stopped calling it populist – it is now ‘ultra-nationalist’.

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