Finnish political veteran to challenge PM in seeking party chairmanship
HELSINKI, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Finnish political veteran Paavo Vayrynen on Thursday announced he would seek the chairmanship of the ruling Center Party and run against Prime Minister Juha Sipila.
The move came just days after the Finnish presidential election where Vayrynen, who ran as an independent candidate, got 6.2 percent of the votes while the center party's candidate, former prime minister Matti Vanhanen only got 4.1 percent.
Vayrynen said on Thursday that he would make "one more effort to save the Center Party". He said he would rehabilitate the party on the basis of the "traditional centrist ideology".
He believed many supporters of the populist Finns Party and its breakaway party the Blue Future would start backing the Center Party under Vayrynen. He said "liberal values" would have a role in the party.
Vayrynen was the chairman of the Center in 1980-1990. He has since made several attempts to be re-elected, the last in 2012 when Juha Sipila became the chairman.
Vayrynen is currently a member of the European Parliament as a centrist representative. He was also elected to Finnish parliament in 2015, but chose to remain in Brussels, as he got no portfolio in Sipila's government.
He said on Thursday he would take his seat in the Finnish parliament in June, whether elected as the Center's chairman or not. However, he has also launched a party of his own, known as the Civic Party. He said the new party could set up candidates for the April 2019 parliamentary election.
Sipila announced on Sunday night that he would seek re-election in the party convention in the coming June. Sipila had said earlier he would tie his political future with the success of Vanhanen, but had changed his mind just before Vanhanen got a poor result in the election.
While the largest party in Finland following the 2015 parliament elections, the Center is now well below the conservative National Coalition Party and the Social Democratic Party, hovering with the Green Party over the third or fourth position with roughly 15 percent backing.