Troublemaker: Paavo Väyrynen Makes (Even More) Mischief For Centre Party

Warhorse Lapland politician plots party chair comeback despite presidential election vote collapse.

File picture of Paavo Väyrynen / Credit: News Now Finland

Veteran Centre Party politician Paavo Väyrynen is making headlines again by announcing a new bid to be party chairman in the summer.

He’s running against incumbent chairman – and Prime Minister – Juha Sipilä, but says he will resign from the Centre Party if he doesn’t win his leadership bid, to concentrate on his own political party and stand for them in the 2019 parliamentary elections. He has aspirations to get as many as 20 MPs in parliament with his Citizens Party.

Political Twists And Turns

It’s another headache for Centre Party chiefs, who already had to watch while Väyrynen made an independent bid to be President of Finland, and handily beat the official Centre Party candidate Matti Vanhanen in January’s election.

After more than 50 years in politics, Väyrynen has become solidly linked to the Centre Party in the minds of voters it seems, no matter what party banner he tries to run under.

Väyrynen said his presidential campaign had been a big success, but his share of the vote (and actual vote totals) collapsed in comparison to 2012 when he made his third bid to be President of Finland as the Centre Party candidate at that time.

Väyrynen says win or lose the party chair job, he plans anyway to return to parliament in the summer to take up the Lapland constituency seat he vacated when he went to become an MEP in Brussels.

The seat was given to another Centre Party politician almost as colourful as Väyrynen, Mikko Kärnä, who in theory would have to step aside if Väyrynen does indeed assert his right of return to parliament as he threatens.

Trying To Oust Paavo

Prime Minister Sipilä has already tried to oust Väyrynen from the Centre Party, saying that membership rules make it clear someone cannot be a member of two parties.

However, under Centre Party rules only local constituencies can revoke someone’s membership, and Väyrynen runs his own local party branch in the north of Finland.

Väyrynen formed his own Citizens Party after taking offense that he hadn’t been given a ministerial job in Sipilä’s cabinet. But he retained his Centre Party membership as well.

Today, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper revealed they had contacted Centre Party local constituency chairpersons, and the majority said they would also like to see Väyrynen go, while supporting Sipilä’s bit to retain the party chair job.

Reaction From Brussels

In Brussels, Centre Party MEP Anneli Jäätteenmäki – herself a short-lived Prime Minister of Finland – says it’s difficult to keep up with Väyrynen’s political moves.

“If a man establishes his own party, I don’t understand why he aspires to chair another party” Jäätteenmäki comments.

She doesn’t think that Väyrynen stands a chance of becoming Centre Party chairman, as Juha Sipilä enjoys widespread support from within his own party to keep the job.