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Swedish People's Party elects first female leader

The small opposition Swedish People's Party has elected a new chair, Anna-Maja Henriksson.

Anna-Maja Henriksson
Anna-Maja Henriksson Image: Yle

Former justice minister Anna-Maja Henriksson has become the first woman to lead the party in its 110-year history. Henriksson was the favourite in a race against two political newcomers: first-term MP Anders Adlercreutz and 27-year-old activist Ida Schauman.

Henriksson, a 52-year-old lawyer from the west-coast town of Jakobstad, served two terms as justice minister: from 2011 to 2014 under PM Jyrki Katainen, followed by another year in Alexander Stubb's cabinet.

SPP punching under its weight

Since then the small, middle-of-the-road language-based party has been in opposition for the first time in more than three decades.

Finland has a Swedish-speaking minority of 5.4 percent, but in the 2011 parliamentary elections the party only garnered support from 4.3 percent of voters.

Henriksson succeeds former defence minister Carl Haglund, who led the party for four years. At 37, he is expected to move into the private sector.

The SPP had been one of the few parties never to have a female chair, along with the populist Finns Party and the conservative National Coalition Party.

Three new chairs this weekend

On Saturday, the conservative National Coalition Party picked its new leader, Interior Minister Petteri Orpo, while the opposition Left Alliance confirmed MP Li Andersson as its new chair. The Centre Party is also holding a meeting this weekend, as are leaders of the third government partner, the Finns Party.

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