The Blue Reform political party has started lining up its members of parliament to fight next year’s election.
Defence Minister Juusi Niinistö is the latest high profile Blue politician to throw his hat into the ring for the party which faces an uphill struggle to gain traction among voters with less than nine months before the next scheduled general election.
The Blue Reform party only sparked into life last summer after the Finns Party split in half acrimoniously, leaving 18 new Blue Reform members of parliament still part of the government coalition; while the remaining 17 Finns Party members of parliament found themselves suddenly in opposition.
Since the split, the former colleagues have traded barbs across the floor of parliament and in social media. Recent polls put the Finns Party around 5th most popular party in Finland, but with less than 9% of support. That’s a huge slump from the nearly 20% record share they enjoyed at the 2011 general election.
Blue Reform however have fared less well, with low public recognition of their brand leaving them less than 1% support – despite (or maybe because of) having a handful of high profile government ministers.
Niinistö Counting On Track Record
Niinistö received close to 12,000 votes at the 2015 general election when he was a Finns Party candidate, and acknowledges his new party’s low opinion poll rating. However, he hopes his track record in office will get him re-elected.
“The fact is that our nominees are more familiar than our young” party, Niinistö writes in his blog.
“During the last parliamentary term, I was chairman of the Parliamentary Defense Committee […] now, my constituents have the opportunity to decide whether I have been a good defense minister” he writes.
Waiting For Timo
While Niinistö is the highest profile Blue Reform MP to announce his candidacy, he’s not the only one.
Parliamentary Group chair Simon Elo; Europe Minister Sampo Terho; Labour Minister Jari Lindström; and Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattilä have all announced their intentions to stand as Blue Reform candidates in 2019.
But one big beast missing from the lineup so far is Foreign Minister Timo Soini.
The 56-year old has suffered bouts of ill health during the current parliamentary cycle, and taken sick leave from his job.
Combine this with his very public stance on abortion and reproductive healthcare rights for women – at sharp odds with Foreign Ministry projects, government policy and Finnish public opinion – and some commentators are wondering whether Soini will stand at the next election or not.