THE PARTY CONFERENCE of the Social Democratic Party on Friday elected Antti Lindtman, a 41-year-old Member of Parliament for Uusimaa, as the new chairperson of the opposition party.
Lindtman, who was widely considered the frontrunner to take over the reins from Sanna Marin, received over three-quarters of the roughly 16,000 votes cast in the leadership election, handily beating his rival candidate, Krista Kiuru.
“Wow, that’s quite the result,” he exclaimed after the election according to Helsingin Sanomat.
Lindtman was asked later at a press conference about his vision for the party especially in contrast to the term of Marin, who led the party since mid-2010 after a closely fought leadership election win over Lindtman. Marin, who had become prime minister about six months earlier due to the resignation of Antti Rinne, announced after last spring’s parliamentary elections that she will not seek a second term at the helm of the party.
“I’d say that the times around us have changed,” replied Lindtman.
He acknowledged that the need for fiscal stimulus was obvious in the past couple of years as the country was faced with the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.
“In this electoral term and in the coming years, there’ll clearly be a need to focus on beefing up the public economy,” he viewed, stressing nonetheless that the party will determine its platform together. “We’ll show [in our shadow budget] that balancing the public economy can be done more justly. The biggest problem with the current government’s economic policy is that the burden falls completely on the shoulders of low and middle-income Finns.”
Nasima Razmyar was elected as the first deputy chairperson, Niina Malm as the second deputy chairperson and Matias Mäkynen as the third deputy chairperson of the Social Democrats on Saturday.
Lindtman stirred up controversy almost immediately after taking the helm, stating his preference for two of the four candidates vying for the influential post of party secretary, Hanna Kuntsi and Mikkel Näkkäläjärvi, who was elected as party secretary on Saturday.
Näkkäläjärvi, 33, is returning to national politics after a few-year absence following controversy about his criminal record, which appeared to damage his campaign for a seat in the European Parliament in 2019. Many news outlets reminded following his appointment that as a 16-year-old he was found guilty of criminal damage, violation of domestic privacy and animal welfare offence, the latter for participating in killing a cat with a shovel.
Four years later he was also found guilty of driving while intoxicated and causing a traffic hazard after falling asleep on the wheel and crashing off the road with four passengers in the car with him.
Lindtman’s announcement prompted the two other candidates to withdraw from the race, causing unease within the party conference. Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday reported that some attendees said the chairperson interfering to prop up his preferred candidates made the contest ugly, particularly as he did so only a couple of hours after underscoring the unity of the party.
More than 50 blank and disqualified votes were cast in the election, accounting for some 10 per cent of the party conference attendees. Some attendees interpreted this as a sign of protest, the newspaper wrote.
Lindtman defended his decision to state his preference with transparency, saying he had told all candidates that he would possibly be commenting on the race. The party secretary, he also reminded, is the most important partner of the chairperson.
“I wanted to do this as openly and fairly as possible, so that this was known to all party secretary candidates from the start,” he commented to STT.
Marin bowed out from the party leadership without speaking to media, cancelling without explanation the press conference she was scheduled to hold on Friday.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT