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Timo Harakka (centre) is up against Antti Rinne (right) and Tytti Tuppurainen (left) in the race to lead the Social Democratic Party.
Timo Harakka (centre) is up against Antti Rinne (right) and Tytti Tuppurainen (left) in the race to lead the Social Democratic Party.

Timo Harakka (SDP), one of three candidates vying for the leadership of the Social Democratic Party, has refuted suggestions that socialism is dead but conceded that it may have to reinvent itself to remain relevant in the 21st century.

“Economic inequalities persist and continue to grow globally. If socialism is understood as addressing social inequalities, which constitutes the basis of the Nordic welfare state, a new version of it is needed,” he says to Uusi Suomi. “I believe the country must provide businesses with all of the preconditions needed to succeed.”

The Social Democratic Party, he underscores, must re-establish itself as a party for the future by offering citizens answers to the pressing questions of the next decades in the parliamentary elections of 2019.

“How will the working life change? How will industries change [to adapt to] the digital world economy? How should the social security system be changed?” he lists.

The Social Democratic Party must shed light on its views on such questions if it is to convince voters that it is the right party to lead the country safely to the next decade.

Harakka estimates that trade unions have retained their relevance amidst momentous changes in the nature of employment and working life.

“The trade unions' role in the society is greater than simply hammering out collective agreements for specific sectors. They've also had their share of accomplishments, such as the pension agreement reached by labour market organisations,” he argues.

The Government of Prime Minister Alexander Stubb (NCP) and labour market organisations agreed on a comprehensive overhaul of the national pension system in the second half of 2014, raising the retirement age gradually to 65 and tying it to life expectancy. The reform was implemented at the beginning of 2017.

“It was the greatest and only accomplishment of Stubb's Government,” says Harakka. “It'll contribute substantially to narrowing the sustainability deficit in the long term, more so than any of the measures of the Government of [Prime Minister] Juha Sipilä (Centre).”

Harakka indicates that the pension deal is evidence of the merits of the bargaining system of Finland.

“It's all but impossible to imagine that earners in any other European country would voluntarily cut their pension benefits. France would probably still be dealing with a general strike. Cars would be on fire in the suburbs of Rome,” he says.

Harakka also expresses his disapproval with the education spending cuts introduced by the Government of Sipilä. Its successor, he believes, should commit to investing one billion euros in all levels of the education system – “in early-childhood education, basic education, general upper-secondary education, vocational education, higher education, and in research, product development and innovation.”

The Social Democratic Party will convene to select its next chairperson in Lahti on 3–5 February. The other two candidates in the leadership race are incumbent chairperson Antti Rinne and Tytti Tuppurainen.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Kalle Parkkinen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi