World News

Deputy head of nationalist Finns Party quits leadership post after harassment

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A senior politician in Finland’s euroskeptic Finns Party said on Tuesday he would step down from the leadership of the party, formerly part of a coalition government, after harassing a lawmaker in parliament.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Finnish media quoted a female MP from another party as saying that Teuvo Hakkarainen, a deputy chairman of the nationalist Finns Party, last week grabbed her neck and kissed her in parliament café despite her objections.

“I am very sorry for what happened, alcohol does not suit me ... I have hurt (her),” Hakkarainen said in his Facebook page.

“I will step down from the position of the party’s second deputy chairman.”

Finns Party’s lawmakers issued a warning to Hakkarainen over the incident, saying any harassment was unacceptable. Hakkarainen will remain a member of the Finns Party parliamentary group.

Hakkarainen was part of a new hard-line leadership nominated by the party in June, a development that led to it being kicked out of the government by Prime Minister Juha Sipila.

More than half of its lawmakers subsequently left the party and formed a new group to keep their government seats.

The Finns Party, formerly called “True Finns”, rose from obscurity during the euro zone debt crisis with an anti-EU platform, complicating the bloc’s bailout talks with troubled states.

Hakkarainen was fined earlier this year for a Facebook post calling for a Muslim-free Finland which a district court said amounted to agitation against an ethnic group.

The party currently has polling support of about eight percent, down from 18 percent in 2015 general election.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, Editing by William Maclean