Christian Democrats' presidential candidate Sari Essayah before MTV's presidential election debate in Helsinki on December 13, 2023. LEHTIKUVA

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Presidential campaign slogan: The best for Finland

Sari Miriam Essayah, is a Finnish politician and the president of Christian Democrats party, born on 21 February 1967 in Haukivuori. She is currently serving as the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Her multifaceted career has seen her excel as a racewalker, secure significant political positions, and contribute to various causes.

Early Life:



Before entering politics, Essayah gained prominence as a racewalker, specializing in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters categories. She secured the World Championship in 1993 and the European Championship in 1994 in the 10,000 meters event.

Essayah's commitment to sports led her to join the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2016. Additionally, she assumed a role on the Ethics Committee for the Finnish Athletics Association in 2014.

Essayah holds an economics degree and has contributed her expertise in roles like accounting manager and auditor.

Political journey:
Essayah began her political journey, representing the Christian Democrats in the Finnish parliament in 2003 and later serving as party secretary. Despite a setback in 2007, she continued in politics, reaching the European Parliament in 2009. Sari worked as a member of the European Parliament from 2009-2014.

In 2012, her presidential candidacy marked a significant step. In 2015, she secured a parliamentary seat and became vice speaker. Elected party chair in 2019, Essayah added another dimension to her career in June 2023, becoming the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the Orpo Cabinet, aligning with her party's emphasis on the sector.

Presidential elections 2024:

On August 27, 2023, Essayah took on a new challenge by accepting the Christian Democrats' nomination as the presidential candidate for the 2024 Finnish presidential election.

As a presidential candidate, Essayah envisions Finland with a sustainable value base, prioritizing safety, crisis resilience, and international cooperation. Apart from the focus on national defence, multilateral collaboration, and NATO membership, Essayah believes that ensuring self-sufficiency, particularly in agriculture and bioeconomy, is crucial for security. 

In addition to this, Essayah advocates collaboration with Nordic countries, establishing a common arctic center, and contributing to nuclear deterrence training and planning, while refraining from deploying the weapons on soil, to enhance preparedness of Finland against geopolitical threats.

Sari Essayah aims to promote the coexistence of ecological sustainability and economic growth via circular economy solutions, fostering Finnish competitiveness, job creation, and business. Advocating for circular practices in agriculture, forestry, fish farming, and recycling, she has highlighted boosting self-sufficiency, benefit nature, enhance processing efficiency, and ensure sustainable resource use.

On defence, Sari Essayah has called for investments in ground forces, alternate landing sites for fighter jets, barracks, building renovations, and defence information systems. She identified Finland's national defence as a significant challenge in attracting young people to military careers, emphasizing the need to make an officer's career more appealing, especially with NATO structures competing for talent. Essayah advocated more women into the military and suggested potential common conscription.

Politics and persona:

Sari Essayah identifies with the politics of Christmas Democracy, advocated by her political party. It is also orientated towards socially conservative policies. She encourages “respecting human dignity”, and endorses family values, community support, defending the vulnerable, promoting individual and collective responsibility.

Essayah highlighted the importance of religious values in Finland's culture, asserting that Christianity seamlessly fits into society, providing a strong moral and ethical framework. She stressed the forgotten contributions of religion to the nation's foundation, emphasizing that rooted values contribute to thriving societies.

According to Essayah, Christian democracy holds that people are entrusted with the responsible stewardship of creation, viewing it as a temporary resource passed on to succeeding generations. The ideology also promotes a sensible lifestyle, emphasizing practices like energy conservation and recycling.

Sari Essayah has shown her enthusiasm towards environment conservation, as she developed an early appreciation for nature, particularly the forest, learning the importance of respecting its delicate balance. Her upbringing in Pohjois Savo immersed her in the countryside's natural charm. Skiing meant navigating through untraveled slopes, and winters included feeding birds in the yard with her grandmother.

Led by Sari Essayah, the Christian Democrats are influential in Finland's latest government, emphasizing family support and addressing societal challenges. The party pushed for an increase in child support for families with young children and allowances for single-parent families will improve.

In June 2009, Sari Essayah was elected to the European Parliament, joining the European People’s Party. She actively participated in committees and delegations, notably in employment, social affairs, and relations with Israel. She opposed joint EU debt, Eurobonds, and increased budgets, advocating instead for structural reforms and responsible economic policies.

Challenges:

Essayah's political career is not without controversy. Her disapproval of the government's participation in Helsinki Pride sparked debates. Arguing against government involvement in events reflecting ideologies not universally shared, she faced criticism for seemingly neglecting the LGBTQ+ community.

The Christian Democrats, headed by Sari Essayah, had stood against both transgender and abortion law reforms. Essayah emphasized to Yle that although identity politics shouldn't impede democratic processes, every MP has the right to follow their own conscience.

Furthermore, her defence of special hunting licenses for lynxes, allowing the hunting of 300 lynxes, drew scrutiny. Despite claims of population management, the decision faced backlash for its potential impact on lynx conservation.

Essayah had also earlier opposed the herring fishing ban in the Baltic Sea proposed by European Commission, deeming it disproportionate and unreasonable. The European Commission had initially suggested a ban on herring fishing due to declining stocks.

As other members of her party, she is a staunch supporter of Israel and unable to criticise or condemn Israel under any circumstances. Her party even spun a racism and immigration crisis caused by resurfacing of racist remarks and comments by Finn’s party’s Purra, into an attempt to ban denial of Holocaust, which had nothing to do with the issue of discrimination against Muslim immigrants in Finland.

Interesting Quotes: 


“I personally think that it is important for the Christian Democrats in particular that we are able to highlight Christian Democratic values ​​in these elections, which are based on a Christian image of humanity. Thus, as many Finns as possible, who share these values ​​on which Finnish society is built, could find their own candidate.”

“We want to promote decisions that create faith in the future and support the well-being of families, children and young people, as well as the participation of all citizens. Children, young people and families must also be brought to the center of the future government's policy - if that is future policy.”

“Statistics Finland's message is quite stupefying. The birth rate has declined for as many as five consecutive years: people are less eager to have children and postpone starting a family. Finland was a country with one of the highest birth rates in Europe at the turn of the millennium, but that is no longer the case.”

“It has thus been a major disappointment that some of the austerity measures have especially hit families with children. The Government has decided to abolish index-based increases in child benefits, is about to sharply raise the costs of daycare services and has doubled the costs of after-school activities.”

“Increasing the understanding on forests is a crucial way of exerting an influence in the EU. In this way, we can ensure the sustainability of forestry and provide solutions to carbon binding and climate change.”

“You have to understand that there are also people [in the government] who don’t share the views and objectives of the Pride movement. This event is starting to become quite politicised, and as a representative of public power I’d refrain from participating in things like these. People can have different views on issues and promote the issues they want to promote as private individuals.”

“In those countries where active euthanasia has been legalised, the level of palliative care has suffered as a result. Rather than legalising an activity which is considered unethical by the World Medical Association as well as the Hippocratic Oath, we must take deliberate steps to develop the quality of treatment given terminally ill patients.”

“When it comes to family policy, I would say that for a Muslim voter, Christian Democratic family values are maybe the closest one.”

“It’s Hamas who is killing people of Gaza, not Israel.”

HT

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