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Essayah re-elected Christian Democrat leader after cancer treatment

Christian Democrat leader Sari Essayah was re-elected on Saturday after successful treatment for breast cancer.

KD:n puheenjohtaja Sari Essayah
Sari Essayah Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The Christian Democrat party conference re-elected current leader Sari Essayah on Saturday, four days after she announced the success of an operation to remove a cancerous tumor.

“Lots of party members have expressed the hopes that I might be able to continue,” said Essayah. “Of course in this situation I consider first and foremost my own recovery and whether I could continue in this role.”

On Wednesday Essayah had announced that the treatment for breast cancer had been successful and the cancer had not spread.

Earlier in the month the former world champion race walker had announced her illness, a two-week spell of sick leave and said she was considering stepping down as party leader.

Alternative government

Although she faces further treatment in the autumn, the success of her initial treatment meant she decided to put herself forward for another two-year term as leader of the party.

At the age of 52 Essayah is the youngest of the party’s five MPs. At the last election the party received 3.9 percent of the vote.

In Oulu she said that the parliamentary arithmetic would allow for a more conservative government to be formed if the Centre Party switched sides.

“Together with the Centre Party the three opposition parties could form a majority government supported by 113 MPs,” said Essayah. “This is surely noted in government meetings and government parties’ offices.”

The current government led by SDP chair Antti Rinne and composed of the Left Alliance, SDP, Swedish People’s Party and Centre Party has the support of 117 MPs.

Story continues after photo

Päivi Räsänen
Image: Tiina Kokko / Yle

Essayah also took the opportunity to comment on the ongoing police investigation into former leader Päivi Räsänen over comments in June criticizing Pride week, and particularly the Finnish Lutheran church’s participation in it.

“As a party we don’t handle church business, but Päivi has done so in her role [as a member of the church],” said Essayah. “She has exercised her freedom of speech and her freedom of conviction, which has traditionally been very broad in Finland and that’s the viewpoint from which she has acted.”

“We have wanted to emphasise the importance of freedom of religion in Finnish society,” said Essayah. “For example if you think about marriage, it is important to us that parishes can themselves decide on their understanding of marriage based among other things on who can marry and who cannot.

Finland passed a law allowing same-sex marriage in 2015, and the law took effect in 2017. The Lutheran Church, however, still holds that marriage is between a man and a woman and does not recognize gay marriage, although some priests have blessed gay unions.

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