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Grandees out to usurp inexperienced MPs at next election

Senior figures in the opposition Centre Party are unhappy with the current generation of parliamentarians. Several old boys say they want to return to parliament because the new generation of politicos just don’t cut the mustard.

Image: Kati Rantala / Yle

Kankaanpää politician Kauko Juhantalo wants to make a comeback. The Centre party MP, who first entered parliament in 1979, is looking to return to the legislature at the ripe old age of 72—because he doesn’t think the younger politicians currently in power have what it takes.

“Younger generations have this kind of general incompetence about getting things sorted these days,” Juhantalo told Yle Satakunta. “There’s somehow this kind of atmosphere where decisions don’t get made. There are big plans that never come to fruition.”

Juhantalo himself served as minister for industry in the early 1990s, but was given a suspended prison sentence for his role in a bribery scandal. He lost his ministerial post and was kicked out of parliament, but voters returned him to the legislature in 1995 and in 2003. He was not re-elected in 2007.

Bribery conviction

Juhantalo claims he was a scapegoat for the deep recession Finland experienced in the early 90s.

“Finland was in such a situation back then that someone had to be found guilty and I fitted the bill pretty well,” said Juhantalo, who was also expelled from the Finnish Bar Association in January 1994.

The Satakunta veteran is not the only grandee looking to return to the big stage. Former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who left office in 2010 amid campaign funding scandals, has said he is ‘seriously considering’ an election campaign in 2015.

Eurosceptic Centre MEP Paavo Väyrynen, no spring chicken at 68-years-old, is looking to the national parliament again at next year’s elections.

Change those old faces?

64-year-old Toimi Kankaanniemi, another former minister who defected from the Christian Democrats to the Finns Party, has also announced his intention to stand for election next year.

This tide of elder statesmen coming back to Finnish politics is not to everyone’s taste.

“I think that these sixtysomethings that are on this path now thought the same thing when they were thirtysomethings, that those old faces should be changed,” said Centre party youth organizer Teppo Säkkinen. “And the sixtysomethings back then thought that these youngsters don’t know anything.”

The average age of MPs elected at the last election in 2011 was 48. Women were aged 45 on average, while men who made it to parliament were 52.2 years old. Neighbouring Sweden, meanwhile, recently rejected older faces and elected the youngest parliament ever, with an average age of just 45.