Newly-elected chairman of the Finns Party and Member of the European Parliament Jussi Halla-aho delivers his speech at the Finns Party congress in Jyvaskyla, Finland June 11, 2017. LEHTIKUVA/Jussi Nukari via REUTERS(reuters_tickers)
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's nationalist Finns party will be split into two parliamentary groups following a change of leadership, lawmakers said on Tuesday, a move that could help Prime Minister Juha Sipila form a new coalition government.
Sipila on Monday said he would kick the eurosceptic Finns Party out of his three-party government after it chose new hardline anti-immigration leaders.
Lawmaker Simon Elo said a new group, called New Alternative, would be formed with 20 parliamentarians, leaving the old Finns party group with 17 MPs.
He added that the new group -- which includes former Finns party leader Timo Soini and all other current Finns party ministers -- was ready to participate in Sipila's coalition government in its current programme.
"This decision will likely ruin our political careers... but we are determined to do this... for the right reasons. Today we are not politicians, but we are doing this for the fatherland's sake," Elo told reporters.
With New Alternative, Sipila's coalition would have 106 of the parliament's 200 seats, offering him an easy way out of the government crisis.
Jussi Halla-aho's nomination to the Finns party helm on Saturday was seen as taking the moderate protest party into a more radical right-wing direction.
Elo said the new group may later be established as a new party.
(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)