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Väyrynen says will not quit Centre Party, compares himself to Kekkonen

Political elder Paavo Väyrynen says he has no plans to leave the Centre Party, although he announced Thursday that he would be forming a new political group, the Citizens' Party. The prime directive for the new party is to ensure Finland's departure from the eurozone.

MEP Paavo Väyrynen at a press conference Friday. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

The dust has barely settled since longtime Centre Party politician and MEP Paavo Väyrynen announced plans to form a new political party, the Citizens' Party. Now, the veteran politico says he’s not quitting the Centre Party either.

"I will not tender my resignation from the local [party] association. The party will then decide what to do," Väyrynen said during a press conference Friday morning. He also wrote about the matter in his blog.

"The starting point for the Citizens' Party is that members can belong to other parties," he added.

The Centre Party rule book does not allow party members to have dual or multiple party memberships. Prime Minister and Centre Party chair Juha Sipilä confirmed the matter on Thursday. However Väyrynen said that this regulation does not apply to local party groups.

"We aren't party members, we are members of the local association," the new party leader insisted.

Väyrynen is also a member of the Keminmaa municipal council in northern Finland. He said that he intends to continue in his role as a local Centre Party politician.

"Everything is fine in Keminmaa," Väyrynen said when asked why he will not leave the Centre, given his stated disappointment with the party.

Väyrynen declared that the Citizens' Party would only have a parliamentary presence. Its members would only be MPs and would be active in national elections. Ordinary citizens would be free to join the party’s support group. He noted that this model is well-known in Britain.

Only option to get MPs to discuss euro exit

Väyrynen repeated his assertion that he was not able to wield influence under the leadership of Centre chair Juha Sipilä.

"Since I was not able to have an impact via the party, there was no other choice," he noted.

He said that the idea of forming a separate party occurred to him when he was launching a citizens' initiative calling for a referendum to exit the eurozone. The initiative took off in July and succeeded in gathering the 50,000 signatures required to go to the Parliament.

"It was not possible to get the issue of Finland's euro exit to the Parliament for debate since none of the parties supported it," he conceded.

Väyrynen denounced as tasteless any attempt to compare him to legendary Finnish politician Veikko Vennamo, who broke off his affiliation with the Centre Party predecessor the Agrarian League, to establish the Finnish Rural Party (Suomen Maaseudun Puolue), the forerunner to today’s Finns Party.

"I feel that I'm more like [Urho] Kekkonen, who stays the course and is there when needed, rain or storm," Väyrynen remarked.

Väyrynen said he will be returning from his Brussels assignment as a Centre MEP to take up his MP's seat during the current parliamentary term.