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SPP re-elects Henriksson; Ohisalo returns to address Greens conference

There were few fireworks as two junior government partners held party conferences this weekend.

Delegates at the Greens' party congress in Joensuu. Image: Jani Saikko / Yle

Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson was unanimously re-elected as leader of the Swedish People's Party (SPP) on Sunday in Turku. Henriksson, who has led the party since 2016, ran unopposed.

"We have repeatedly shown that we are the driving force in Finland for the equal value of human beings, for the equal rights and freedoms of all and for the democratic rule of law," Henriksson told delegates, vowing to lead the SPP into Finland's next government as well.

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Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Besides Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green), she is the long-serving minister in the current cabinet, having served as Justice Minister in four cabinets since 2011. In February, Henriksson has announced a major overhaul of sex crime legislation, an issue she has focused on for years.

The moderate SPP is the smallest of the five parties in the centre-left coalition government led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP).

The party has two ministers in the 19-member cabinet while the Swedish Parliamentary Group has 10 seats in the 200-seat legislature. It primarily represents the interests of Finland's 5.2 percent Swedish-speaking minority.

Ohisalo: Double funding for nature conservation

Another junior government partner, the Greens, also held a party congress this weekend. The Greens, who have three ministers in the cabinet and 20 seats in Parliament, gathered in Joensuu, eastern Finland.

The party has been losing support in public opinion polls, especially since MP Iiris Suomela took over as interim party leader in November. Suomela, who is not a cabinet minister, has been standing in for former Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo, who has been on parental leave.

In Yle's latest party support poll, the Greens fell into sixth place behind government partners the Left Alliance for the first time since 2014.

Ohisalo addressed the conference on Sunday. She is to return to work in early June, taking over the environment and climate portfolio.

She said that the Greens aim to double funding for nature conservation during the next legislative term and to increase the employment rate to 80 percent by 2030.

Iiris Suomela, Maria Ohisalo and Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen at the Greens' meeting in Joensuu. Image: Jorma Vihtonen / Yle

According to Ohisalo, tackling the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity must be at the heart of all policy.

"We have recently talked a lot about Finland's security through foreign and security policy. Security means much more than security from an armed threat. It means that the earth will remain viable for future generations," she told delegates.

The Greens approved their platform ahead of next spring's parliamentary elections.

Along with familiar environmental themes, delegates voted to affirm last year's proposal that Finland make it legal to use, possess, manufacture and sell cannabis. At a virtual meeting in September, the decision to support such legalisation was made by a razor-thin vote of 183-181.

By a wide majority, the party conference also called for wine sales at grocery stores. The Greens want to raise the retail sales limit for alcohol products to 15.5 percent, allowing the retail sale of wine outside state Alko outlets.

A controversial proposal to abolish double pay for work on Sundays was voted down.