Pekka Haavisto joins Green party leadership race

Former presidential candidate becomes the most high profile Green politician to stand for party leader.

File picture of Pekka Haavisto (Green) / Credit: Vihreät

Two-time presidential candidate, former minister and ex-UN official Pekka Haavisto says he’s running to become the leader of the Green Alliance political party.

The Greens will choose a new leader on Saturday, to serve for an interim period, to replace Touko Aalto, who resigned in October after a period of sick leave and an ongoing battle with depression.

Aalto had about seven months left of his two year stint as Green chairman, and the successful candidate on Saturday will complete this. New elections will be held in the summer to find the next two year chairperson.

Writing on his website, Haavisto says that at Saturday’s special meeting of party leaders, they will “have to go through a thorough discussion of what kind of chairperson they’re hoping for during the spring”.

“I have today informed the delegation that my name is available for their deliberations” writes Haavisto from Eritrea, where he is on a visit to see projects partly financed by Finn Church Aid.

There are now two official candidates for Saturday’s vote, which takes place in Helsinki. Haavisto is joined on the ballot by MP Outi Alanko-Kahiluot.

Other Green politicians drop out

Several other Green politicians have declined to get involved in the race this week, in what was turning into a bit of a public relations headache for the the party, sparking media speculation as to why nobody was willing to step forward.

Former leader Ville Niinistö said on Wednesday that he wouldn’t be running for the role again, even on a temporary basis, but rather he plans to quit parliament at the next election and possible run for the European Parliament instead.

First term MP Emma Kari also said today she wouldn’t stand for the job, echoing the comments made by Maria Ohisalo earlier this week, saying she thinks the party needs someone with better national name recognition.

Political analyst Jenni Karimäki from the Centre for Parliamentary Studies at Turku University said this week that she thought one of the Green’s better known figures like Haavisto could be a strong candidate to fill the job for the next several months.

“Then next spring or summer we’re going to see [Maria] Ohisalo probably going to run then” Karimäki said.

Having a more senior party leader in the short term like ex-chair Haavisto would potentially be a boon for the Greens if they were involved in negotiations to form the next government. A steady hand on the tiller – not to mention a welcome boost in the polls from a very popular politician – Haavisto came second, twice, in the most recent presidential elections – could be the shot in the arm the party needs after falling poll numbers in recent months.