Veteran Finnish politician Paavo Väyrynen is to leave his MEP job in Brussels, and make a return to national politics before the end of this parliamentary session.
The move, announced at a Helsinki press conference, has implications for his former party, the coalition government, and the MP who has been keeping Väyrynen’s Lapland seat warm over the last three years.
Paavo’s Parliament Plans
Väyrynen, 71, has severed formal ties with the Centre Party which he lead for a decade from 1980, and plans to form his own parliamentary group when he returns to Helsinki.
His recent feud with the Citizens’ Party, of which he’s a founding member, complicates matters somewhat. Other party leaders kicked him out over financial issues, and that decision is currently being challenged in a Helsinki court.
Väyrynen has made it clear he plans to be a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) especially over the social and healthcare reform bill. The PM enjoys only a slim parliamentary majority, and a number of his coalition MPs have said they won’t support the reform package. Sipilä can now count Väyrynen as one of those who oppose him.
“When I return to parliament I will immediately lead the party’s preparations for parliamentary elections and elections to the European Parliament” Väyrynen said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
He plans to run as a candidate for the Citizens’ Party in both of those elections. He is also currently a member of Helsinki City Council.
The Chairman of the Civic Party Sami Kilpeläinen hit back at these plans saying that Väyrynen “does not lead anything” in the party.
“Paavo changes his mind more often than the socks on his feet” he added.
Centre Party Reaction
Väyrynen’s long and painful divorce from the Centre Party – he formed the breakaway Citizens’ Party as a reaction to not being offered a plum ministerial position in Sipilä’s government – is finally complete.
He snubbed his former party in January’s presidential election by running as an independent candidate, coming fourth and beating the official Centre Party candidate, former Prime Minister Matti Vahnanen. This was Väyrynen’s fourth shot at becoming president of Finland.
After the election he announced that he would challenge Sipilä for chairmanship of the Centre Party – of which he was still at that time a member – and vowed to win, and become Prime Minister as well. However last week he said he was pulling out of that race.
“Really many have been tired of Paavo’s tune” says Antti Kaikkonen, Chairman of the Centre Party’s parliamentary group.
“Good luck to the Citizens’ Party. Of course I would have hoped for a somewhat more honourable end to Väyrynen’s important career in the Centre Party, but this is how it is now” he said.
Political Shuffles Ahead
Väyrynen is returning to claim his position as MP in Finland’s most northerly constituency, and that means the current MP Mikko Kärnä will have to step aside.
Commentators have wondered whether Kärnä, a virulently pro-Catalan campaigner, might find his talents better appreciated at the European Parliament.
For his part, Kärnä tweeted that his political work continues “all the time, in all forums, as long as the spirit is in me”, after taking a potshot at Väyrynen’s political grandstanding.
Väyrynen’s departure from Brussels means there is a vacant MEP position which will now be filled by Mirja Vehkaperä.