Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori announces he won’t run for second term in office

The 55-year old says he wants to do something else - with his name often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.

File picture of Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) / Credit: News Now Finland

The Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) says he won’t be running for a second term in office at next April’s municipal elections.

Vapaavuori made the announcement in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday, and his office says he’s not giving comments to other journalists today about the matter.

“We all only have one life. I strongly believe that this life will be richer if different things can be done during it” the mayor writes on Twitter.

“Until next summer, I will continue with full commitment at the helm of Helsinki. After that, I will do something else. What else? I really don’t know yet” he adds, but the 55-year old told HS that he could be looking for jobs in the private sector or in entrepreneurship.

Mayor Vapaavuori is currently a candidate to be the next head of the Finnish Olympic Committee, and has been considered a possible National Coalition Party candidate for the 2024 presidential election. That would cap a lifetime of political service: Vapaavuori has been a member of Helsinki City Council for almost a quarter of a century; was a government minister under two Centre Party prime ministers, and two Kokoomus prime ministers; and had a senior role at the European Investment Bank from 2015-2017 before becoming Mayor of Helsinki.

In the short term, his party will have to quickly identify another popular and well-known figure to lead them into the municipal elections in the capital, and be their mayoral candidate. Vapaavuori received almost 30,000 votes in 2017 – the biggest personal number of any Finnish politician during that election.

File picture of Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) coronavirus briefing in English, March 31st 2020 / Credit: News Now Finland

Vapaavuori’s time in office

It’s fair to say Vapaavuori has had a mixed reception to his time as mayor of Finland’s capital city.

Although at first he seemed to get along with his coalition of deputy mayors, the cracks soon started to show with criticism of his management style, and defeats at the hands of political opponents on a number of high profile infrastructure projects where Vapaavuori had wanted to stamp his legacy. The mayor has also clashed repeatedly with businessman Peter Vesterbacka over plans to build a Tallinn tunnel, with Vapaavuori insisting the only possible route must come through Helsinki city centre.

An official report earlier in 2020 from the city’s Audit Committee criticized Vapaavuori for a “concentration of power” to the detriment of the deputy mayors and other civil servants. The report called for “more checks and balances” on the mayor’s powers.

Vapaavuori has been praised for working closely with Finland’s other largest cities to pursue their shared interests and concerns with more coordinated action and lobbying. However he’s also clashed with central government – particularly around social and healthcare reform, and during the coronavirus pandemic – as he seemingly tried to elevate Helsinki to almost city-state status, and demanded a bigger voice for the capital in national government decision-making.

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