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Pekka Haavisto elected new Greens chair

Green Party delegates chose the two-time presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto as their new party leader after Touko Aalto stepped down for health reasons.

Pekka Haavisto Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Prominent Greens politician Pekka Haavisto was elected as the new Greens Party chair on Saturday, beating out MP Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto for the position.

The Greens were forced to name a new party chair after Touko Aalto announced last Wednesday that he would step down from his party leadership position due to health reasons. Aalto maintained that a new leader was needed to lead the party into the parliamentary elections in April 2019, as he needed more time to recover.

After an eventful week or so in which eight different potential candidates from the Green Party turned down a candidacy for the post, two MPs announced that they would run for the position: Haavisto and Alanko-Kahiluoto.

The Green Party mishaps in the lead-up to the Saturday party delegate meeting raised criticism from the party ranks.

"This was certainly no triumph of information strategy: people saying 'no' one after the other until we finally ended up with Haavisto," former party chair Osmo Soininvaara said in an interview with the daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Second time at the helm

Pekka Haavisto's term as the Greens chair will not be his first, as he has already served as the Greens Party chair from 1993 to 1995.

He was not re-elected to the Finnish Parliament in the 1995 parliamentary elections, but after the Greens did well enough in the elections to secure a minister position, the party named Haavisto as their candidate to join the government of then-Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen as environment minister.

This awarded Pekka Haavisto the distinction of being the first Green Party politician in Europe to hold a ministerial post.

Haavisto was re-elected to the parliament in 2007 and 2011 from the electoral district of Helsinki.

He also ran for president in Finland in the 2012 and 2018 elections, coming in second in both races.

Short but critical term of office

Haavisto will serve as the Greens chair until June 2019, when a new chair will be chosen. This means Haavisto will lead the party through the next parliamentary and European elections and oversee his party's input into the formation of a new coalition government, if the Greens win enough votes to be considered as a government partner.

Haavisto has already told several media representatives that his objective going into the elections is for the Greens to receive sufficient voter support to be one of the top three parties.