The Left Alliance presidential candidate Li Andersson. LEHTIKUVA

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Presidential campaign slogan – The next president of the entire nation

Li Andersson, the 36-year-old chairwoman of the Left Alliance and a prominent figure in Finnish politics, has entered the presidential race. Described as a feminist, social activist, and 21st-century Marxist, Andersson, born on May 13, 1987 in Turku, has been a staunch supporter of human rights and climate change and has centered her presidential campaign on these two issues.

Early life

Before embarking on her political journey, she was nurtured in a non-political environment, where her introduction to left-wing ideologies stemmed not from cultural legacy but from a close-knit circle of friends. Growing up in a Swedish-speaking household, Andersson faced the challenge of mastering public speaking in Finnish as she ventured into politics.

Her educational trajectory served as a cornerstone in shaping her worldview. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Åbo Akademi in 2010, Andersson delved into the intricacies of international law, specializing in areas such as international human rights legislation and refugee law. Complementing her studies, she also immersed herself in the study of Russian language and culture.

Political journey

Elected as chairman of the Left Youth in 2011, Andersson swiftly ascended the political ladder. In the 2012 municipal elections, she clinched the highest vote count in Turku. Her prominence soared during the 2014 European Parliament elections, garnering 47,000 votes and securing a parliamentary seat in 2015 with 15,154 votes. Notably, she assumed the chairwomanship of the Left Alliance in 2016 at just 29 years old, becoming the youngest chairperson of a parliamentary party at the time.

Within Sanna Marin’s government, Andersson held the role of Minister of Education from 2019 to 2023, contributing to the pioneering all-female leadership team. Her dedication to environmental causes was evident in her choice to forgo the ministerial car, preferring to walk or bike instead.

In the 2023 parliamentary elections, the Left Alliance, led by Andersson, experienced a major setback, losing five seats from its previous total of 16. Her response during the election night was openly disappointed, reflecting the party’s electoral defeat.

Presidential elections

In the recent Yle presidential exam, Li Andersson articulated a compelling vision for Finland's role in promoting global peace and stability. Addressing concerns about government cuts, Andersson expressed a desire to be a president for everyone, extending her representation to those who may feel marginalized.

Notably, Andersson displayed clarity in her foreign policy stance, advocating for a multilateral and rule-based system while condemning human rights issues in other NATO countries. She boldly suggested Finland should criticize NATO countries more assertively, particularly for human rights problems, and expressed a strong position on calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and called for sanctions against Israel following its aggression on Gaza strip which has caused humanitarian crisis in the region, indicating a proactive approach to international issues.

However, despite her aspirations to be the “president of the whole nation,” questions arose about justifying this ambition from the political margins. The discomfort was palpable when addressing her party’s NATO position, an issue that previously caused division within the left-wing alliance.

While emphasizing her participation in government foreign and security policy meetings, the specifics of the Left Alliance’s position on NATO-Finland remained unclear. Andersson highlighted Finland’s strong decision-making power and sovereignty within NATO, indicating the party’s attempt to navigate a supportive role without being overtly critical.

On the domestic front, Andersson conveyed a willingness to relinquish certain presidential powers, such as appointing chancellors of justice and CEOs of the Bank of Finland. She considered the division of labor between the president, government, and parliament as functional, a departure from her previous stance advocating for increased government power.

On the issue of migrants crisis at the eastern border while recognizing the need for immediate measures, Andersson expressed reservations about a completely closed border as a long-term solution.

Andersson emphasized the importance of maintaining at least one open border crossing point to accommodate individuals with family ties across the border. Additionally, she stressed the significance of upholding standards outlined in the UN Refugee Convention and considering asylum rights for migrants who may genuinely require international protection, advocating for readiness to address their potential applications for assistance.

Politics and persona

Andersson’s traits include sharpness, impatience in her conversational style, and a commitment to equality. She identifies as anti-capitalist, viewing capitalism as an unequal system concentrating economic power in a few strong actors. Born in Turku, she learned public speaking in Finnish early in her political career and emphasizes on international human rights legislation and refugee law.

Beyond politics, Andersson has expressing concerns about climate change and actively advocating for green initiatives. Her relationship with nature evolved into a more social and political aspect, and she has successfully convinced labour unions of the importance of climate action.

Andersson’s confident and clear stances on issues has appealed to emotions and sought to expand her support base among red-green supporters. Her speeches often touches on human rights, equality, and domestic policy, with Andersson emphasizing the importance of Finland being a good country for everyone.

Andersson also sees Presidential role as that of an important value leaders and has underscored their role in public discourse and collaboration with the government on critical matters related to foreign policy. Andersson has criticized the challenges to Finland’s welfare state, highlighting the political attacks on its core elements and the government’s push towards market-driven reforms. She also highlights the Left Alliance’s stance on socialism, emphasizing the importance of addressing contemporary issues rather than dwelling on past achievements.

Regarding the populist right, Andersson has often pointed out the trajectory of the True Finns party, its role in government, and subsequent split, cautioning against its divisive rhetoric and economic policies. She raised concerns over the rising populist right, and stressed on building alliances with unions and addressing material issues to counter identity politics.

In 2020, Li Andersson criticized the Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s decision to abandon collective bargaining in the labor market, stating that it was politically motivated. The decision marked a departure from the usual practice of sector-based collective bargaining agreements in Finland. Andersson expressed concerns that this move would lead to worsened conditions for employees, as working hours and salary levels are typically determined through collective bargaining agreements in Finland

Challenges

Andersson faced controversy when the Left Alliance reversed its stance on NATO membership in May 2022. She publicly criticized the party's previous position, engaging in self-criticism and expressing regret for not proposing alternative solutions earlier. This shift marked a significant departure and drew attention to internal disagreements within the party.

In 2022, Li Andersson was also at loggerheads with the Sanna Marin government regarding the proposed Patient Safety Act. Prime Minister Marin urged coalition unity, but the Left Alliance, including Andersson, opposed the bill’s earlier form due to concerns over patient safety and rushed preparation. She called for potential adjustments during parliamentary debate but didn’t confirm her party’s voting stance. Despite tensions, there were no discussions of the Left Alliance leaving the coalition over the issue.

Andersson is described a “radical” figure within the left-wing coalition, which has not gone well with the nationalist sections of Finland. While Andersson is regarded as a favorite among young city dwellers and within the red-green movement, some perceive her as lacking nationalism and having a distant demeanor.

Andersson, while serving as Minister of Education, drew attention for her choice of words, such as labeling a statement by Jussi Halla-aho, then chairman of Basic Finns, as “nonsense.” Halla-aho had argued that the Green Left was advocating policies that could render areas in Finland uninhabitable.

Interesting quotes

“I am a feminist and addicted to magazines, wool socks, coffee and sometimes red wine.”

“Finland is staking a big step back from the way in which labour markets in the country have been developed.”

“The class struggle has not disappeared and the Right are on top. The recent decisions to cut social security are an indication of that.”

“The uncertainty, insecurity and problems associated with the daily lives of people – such as unemployment and climate change or the way that tax haven economies are gnawing away at the funding of welfare services in EU member states – cannot be solved by creating divisions between people. They cannot be solved with racism.”

“The fact that the government that’s running the country has made a promise to an interest group shouldn’t lead to such a divisive, de-stabilising crisis in the labour markets.”

“In boxing, you have to train the whole body, and especially those muscle groups that atrophy in sitting work. The shoulders, back and stomach get stronger right before your eyes. Last winter, I went skiing once only to realize that I’m really bad at it.”

“Finland could support the South African ICJ-case and advocate for sanctions against Israel. There are a lot of options, if there is political willingness to do more to end this war and to protect the civilians who need humanitarian assistance in Gaza.”

HT

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