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Pekka Haavisto steps into race for Greens' leader post

A high-profile political veteran becomes the second candidate vying to lead Finland’s second-biggest opposition party until next summer.

Pekka Haavisto has a long resume of domestic and international posts. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

MP Pekka Haavisto, a former Greens presidential candidate, environment minister and UN official, says he is ready to lead the party through next spring’s election cycle.

His announcement will likely come as a relief to many party faithful after a series of other potential candidates said they would not run – leaving just one contender for the post. The Greens’ party council is to select a replacement leader this weekend, following the resignation of Touko Aalto, who was elected chair last year, but recently stepped down for health reasons.

Until Thursday, the only confirmed candidate was Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto, former head of the party's parliamentary delegation.

The 60-year-old Haavisto, who became Europe’s first-ever Green government minister in 1995, has been active in the party since it was founded in 1987. He led the party for two years and served two stints as a cabinet minister. In 2012, he lost to conservative Sauli Niinistö in the second round of the presidential election.

He made his announcement via a blog post on Thursday, while on a work trip to Eritrea.

Reached by Yle, he said that at this point he does not foresee running again next June, when the Greens are to select another chair to lead the party for a full two-year term.

"I believe that next summer the Greens party congress will be able to choose from many alternatives, and I don't think I will be among them," said Haavisto.

Emma Kari latest to say 'no'

Earlier on Thursday, MP Emma Kari became the latest to say she would not seek the temporary position. A day earlier, former chair and environment minister Ville Niinistö said the same.

Story continues after photo

Emma Kari Image: Markku Pitkänen / Yle

The current interim chair – and another advance favourite for the post – Maria Ohisalo, who is not an MP, said earlier that she was not the right person to lead the party through next spring’s parliamentary and European elections.

Other Green politicians including Oras Tynkkynen and Olli-Poika Parviainen have also said no to a bid at this point.

The party’s popularity surged under previous chair Ville Niinistö’s term, but has since declined.

Still, many political pundits predict that if the poll-leading Social Democrats win next spring’s parliamentary election, the centre-left Greens might be a natural coalition partner.

Recent polls show the Greens in fourth place behind the SDP and two of the current governing parties.

This story was changed at about 5:43 pm 1 November to reflect that the post Haavisto is running for is the chair of the Greens, not interim chair.