Blue Reform MP defects to reality TV star’s Liike Nyt political movement

This is the second time within two years that Lohela switched parties, this time over social and healthcare reform.

Hjallis Harkimo (L) and Maria Lohela (R) pose after she announced her defection from Blue Reform / Credit: Liike Nyt

A Blue Reform MP, former speaker of parliament Maria Lohela has announced she’s jumping ship from her current party, and joining the Liike Nyt parliamentary group instead.

The move comes just 13 week before the elections, and she cites her lack of support for the coalition government’s social and welfare reform – known in Finnish as sote – for her departure. She confirmed to journalists on Monday afternoon that she wouldn’t be backing the government in any sote votes during the rest of this parliament.

Lohela’s departure means Prime Minister Juha Sipilä‘s (Centre) parliamentary majority is cut to just three MPs.

Previously, Lohela had decided anyway to quit politics at the next election.

Liike Nyt – Movement Now – is not an official political party in Finland but plans to field up to 150 candidates standing as individuals, but bound by the movement’s core values, at the general election on 14th April.

The movement was founded by multi-millionaire businessman, reality TV star-turned-politician Hjallis Harkimo. They recently unveiled their first slate of election candidates which included 60% men and no candidates with minority backgrounds.

Reaction from other politicians

This is not the first time Maria Lohela has switched parties. In summer 2017 she was part of the breakaway faction that quit the Finns Party to form Blue Reform.

Blue party leader Sampo Terho sait it was “a pity” Lohela was leaving over sote.

“This does not change the electoral arrangements of the party as Lohela had previously announced that she will withdraw from politics. Blue Reform will continue the work as planned, but thank you for your work as speaker” Terho wrote.

Her move was applauded by the mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) who offered her a “virtual flower bouquet” on Twitter. Vapaavuori had lead a group of mayors from other major cities in Finland in opposition to the social and healthcare reform, even though it’s his party that is championing the bill in parliament.

Vapaavuori is not alone. In September last year a survey found that 40% of Finns didn’t consider the reforms to be necessary; and 60% of people polled said they didn’t believe it would ever get through parliament.