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Finnish government survives confidence vote after nationalist split

A three-party coaltion will continue with the support of a faction within the populist-nationalist Finns Party. The last week was marked by rare turmoil in Finnish politics.

Finnland Premierminister Juha Sipila (picture-alliance/AP PhotoJ. Nukari)

Prime Minister Juha Sipila

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila's center-right government survived a vote of confidence on Tuesday, ending a rare tumultuous political week after a faction within the populist-nationalist Finns Party split.

The government won 104 votes against 85 in opposition in the 200-seat legislature. Ten parliamentarians were absent and the speaker does not vote.

The coalition - composed of Sipila's Center Party, the pro-EU National Coalition Party (NCP) and the New Alternative faction from the Finns party - now has a reduced majority of 106 seats.

Sipila ousted the Finns Party, the second largest in parliament, from his three-party coalition after it chose hardliner Jussi Halla-aho as its new leader on June 10.

Both the Center Party and NCP had said they would not work Halla-aho, whose anti-immigration and euroskeptic stance does not fit the coalition's policies and values.

Halla-aho was fined for hate speech in 2012 for anti-Islamic comments on his blog.

The collapse of the ruling coalition was averted last week after 20 of the Finns Party's 37 lawmakers split to form the New Alternative faction following the change of party leadership. 

The defections included five members of the cabinet, including Foreign Minister Timo Soini, who had lead the Finns Party's for 20 years until Halla-aho was elected.

"Last week the government's parliamentary base changed, but it did not affect the government's composition. The same members remain," Sipila said in parliament on Monday.

New Alternative has said it plans to follow the government agenda and would rename themselves Blue Future ahead of forming a new party.

The opposition, including the Social Democrats, Greens, and Left Alliance, had called for the confidence vote and voted against the coalition.

Elections are not scheduled until 2019.

cw/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

 

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