June 22, 2017 / 9:38 AM / 2 years ago

Lawmaker rejoins Finland's nationalists, whittling away government majority

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A lawmaker quit Finland’s government to rejoin the nationalist Finns on Thursday, and the party leader called on other politicians who had been “swindled” into joining the coalition to follow her lead.

The center-right government averted collapse last week when the Finns Party split into two parliamentary groups, following election of a new leader with hardline views on immigration.

Prime Minister Juha Sipila ejected the nationalists from his three-party coalition and continued with the more moderate group of 20 parliamentarians, called the “New Alternative”.

But lawmaker Ritva Elomaa on Thursday left the new group and rejoined the Finns Party, saying she had made a hasty decision.

“I hope her example encourages other parliamentarians, who might have been swindled, to reconsider the situation”, Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho told reporters in parliament.

Before the upheaval, the governing coalition controlled 123 of the 200 seats in parliament. With Elomaa leaving, now that number is down to 105.

The coalition - made up of Sipila’s Center Party, the pro-EU National Coalition Party (NCP) and the “New Alternative” faction - on Tuesday survived a no-confidence vote by 104 votes to 85.

The government, half-way into its four-year tenure, is looking to implement healthcare and local government reforms central to Sipila’s plan to balance public finances, before the next election in 2019.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Alison Williams

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