Sofia Virta (left) and Saara Hyrkkö of the Green League attended a press conference on social and health care issues in Helsinki on 20 February 2023. Virta and Hyrkkö, both second-term Members of the Finnish Parliament, are the only party members to join the race to succeed Maria Ohisalo at the helm of the Greens. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE LEADERSHIP RACE of the Green League drew only two nominations: Saara Hyrkkö, a 35-year-old second-term Member of the Parliament from Espoo, and Sofia Virta, a 32-year-old second-term Member of the Parliament from Kaarina, Southwest Finland.

The election committee appointed by the party council also received a third nomination notice by the filing deadline, but the nomination did not comply with the election rules.

Members of the Green League will be able to vote for their preferred candidate in a leadership election that is formally only advisory but in practice regarded as binding for the party conference taking place in Seinäjoki on 10 June. The votes can be cast electronically between 29 May and 8 June.

The results will be announced at the party conference.

Helsingin Sanomat reported last week that the two leadership candidates differ noticeably in terms of their thinking on economic questions. While Hyrkkö lands on the liberal left of the political spectrum, Virta lands on the liberal right, thus representing more of a departure from the current policy positions of the party.

The differences were laid bare by the candidates’ responses on the newspaper's voter guidance pages to questions about the need to cut earnings-based unemployment benefits, the ease of living on social security and the acceptability of large income differences, for example.

Hyrkkö underscored in her candidate profile that the party must not shy away from societal reforms.

“There are plenty of parties that want to preserve in Finland. Our role as a future-looking party is to bring new solutions to the table and create hope for a better future,” she wrote. “All Finns must be made aware of our vision and solutions. We must shake off our lukewarm image and replace it with a culture of rich ideas.”

Virta, meanwhile, said the Green League must raise its profile in all sectors of policy making.

“I want to tear down the glossy image that is associated with the Greens,” she stated. “It is sad how many say they have felt that they are not “the right kind of green”, and I myself have wrestled with the same kind of questions. That our party invokes feelings of exclusion is a problem that must be addressed.”

Maria Ohisalo announced she is not seeking re-election at the helm of the party on 11 April, kindling speculation about both her successor and the direction of the Green League. Among the dozen or so possible successors identified by analysts were Atte Harjanne, Hanna Holopainen, Hyrkkö, Krista Mikkonen and Oras Tynkkynen. The majority of them declined to enter the race, however.

Helsingin Sanomat on Friday wrote that attempts to compel others to throw their hat into the leadership race continued virtually until the filing deadline as party members hoped for as contested a race as possible to provoke the policy debate they believe is needed after a dismal showing in the parliamentary elections on 2 April.

The Green League saw its vote share plunge by 4.5 percentage points to 7.0 per cent, losing 7 of its 20 seats in the Finnish Parliament.

The race to become a deputy chairperson has drawn more interest, with the nominations including Bella Forsgrén, Holopainen, Noora Koponen, Iiris Suomela and Tynkkynen.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT