Finland's nationalist party eye immigration cuts if they win elections

Posters of candidates for parliamentary elections in Espoo
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By Anne Kauranen

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's nationalist Finns Party will crack down on immigration if it wins a national election next month, its leader Riikka Purra said.

Top political parties, including the Finns, are neck-and-neck in polls ahead of the election on April 2.

In a poll published on Tuesday, the right-wing opposition National Coalition Party held a narrow lead among voters with 20.8%, while Purra's Finns Party and Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Social Democrats shared second place, both at 19.3%.

"We want to heavily reduce immigration that is harmful for our country," Purra told Reuters.

She defined harmfulness as the cost of immigration to Finnish taxpayers.

"The kind of immigration policy that Denmark has pursued for a while already and that Sweden wants to implement now under its new right-wing government is quite close to what the Finns Party wants to do in Finland," she said.

She named immigration from developing countries "outside the EU" to be the kind that her party wants to cut.

Still, she was "extremely committed" to supporting Ukraine and to welcoming Ukrainian refugees to Finland if her party leads the next ruling coalition, or is part of one.

"Ukraine has to win this war...we must be committed to helping Ukraine, both with heavy weapons, humanitarian aid and other kinds of mechanisms to help Ukraine fight and win," she said.

The Finns Party, part of a ruling coalition for the first time in 2015-2017, has been rising in polls, representing conservative values and capturing voters' growing discontent with the rise in the cost of living.

Purra, who took over in 2021, has sought to steer the party clear off the far right to mark a difference from her predecessor Jussi Halla-aho, who was fined for racist remarks back in 2012.

The Finns Party maintains an exit from the EU as its long-term goal but Purra does not actively pursue it as neighbouring Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to a rise in the public's support for Finland's EU membership.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Angus MacSwan)