Antti Kaikkonen, the newly elected chairperson of the Centre Party, delivered his keynote remarks at the closing ceremony of the centre-right party’s party conference in Jyväskylä on Sunday, 16 June 2024. Kaikkonen declared that the party intends to re-institute itself as a major political power in Finland. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE CENTRE, National Coalition and Swedish People’s Party all held their party conferences last weekend, keeping political journalists busy with a steady stream of updates.

The Centre Party on Saturday elected Antti Kaikkonen, a 50-year-old fifth-term Member of Parliament from Uusimaa, as the successor to chairperson Annika Saarikko. The Swedish People’s Party on Sunday chose Anders Adlercreutz, a 54-year-old second-term Member of Parliament from Uusimaa, as the successor to chairperson Anna-Maja Henriksson.

Neither Saarikko nor Henriksson was seeking re-election.

Kaikkonen, who won 1,368 of the 1,677 votes cast in the leadership election, vowed in a press conference that the centre-right party will stage a comeback following a couple of disappointing election cycles. “We’ll be back in the game,” he declared on Saturday, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The Centre also defined its position on a number of proposals, ruling that it will work toward introducing regional anthems to the curriculum to foster regional identity and create a sense of community. It also decided not to advocate for the adoption of drug consumption rooms and not to display its logo in rainbow colours for the duration of Pride.

Kaikkonen on Saturday told reporters that the parliamentary group will decide today on whether or not to support the interpellation brought against Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman (PS).

Members of the Swedish People’s Party selected Adlercreutz to take the reins of the party by a vote of 183 to 84.

Adlercreutz stated in his acceptance speech that the party has a special place in the domestic political landscape, as the “only liberal centre-right party” in Finland. The party, he outlined, believes in the power of optimism and building bridges between the extremes rather than sowing divisions.

“We’re a party that builds the future not on the basis of fears, but on the basis of solutions – a party that doesn’t believe in the power of division but in the load-bearing capacity of bridges,” he was quoted saying by YLE.

He also conceded that the party may have failed to lay out its objectives to voters.

“We’ll have to clarify our line. We’ll have to define what we’re looking to accomplish more clearly. Maybe later we’ll also have to define our red lines,” he emphasised.

The Swedish People’s Party on Sunday decided to back a proposal to lower the legal voting age in all national and European elections from 18 to 16. The age limit for standing for election would remain at 18.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, meanwhile, secured his fifth two-year term at the helm of the National Coalition, following an uncontested leadership election in Tampere on Saturday. Orpo, who has led the right-wing party to six consecutive election victories, announced he has selected Henna Virkkunen (NCP) as the Finnish nominee to the European Commission.

“My decision won’t come as a surprise because our candidate is known as skilled and hard-working in both our home country and Brussels. This provides Finland a great opportunity to secure a key portfolio in the next commission,” he was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat.

Finland, he added, is interested particularly in several portfolios in the areas of security and competitiveness. The portfolios will be distributed by the president of the next European Commission.

The National Coalition on Saturday also re-affirmed its support for fur farming by rejecting a proposal to work toward doing away with state subsidies for the industry. The sponsors of the proposal argued that fur farming is a dying industry and that its exclusion from the subsidy scheme would be justified for economic, ethical, environmental and health-based reasons.

The proposal was rejected by a vote of 265 for and 324 against.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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