Former SDP chair Urpilainen considers presidential bid

Former Social Democratic Party chair and MP Jutta Urpilainen has responded to rumours that she could be the SDP presidential candidate in the 2018 elections, saying she'll decide by the end of the month if she will run.

Jutta Urpilainen saapumassa eduskunnan täysistuntoon Helsingissä.
Social Democrat MP Jutta Urpilainen Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Chair of the Social Democratic Party from 2008 and 2014 and Finance Minister from 2011 to 2014, Jutta Urpilainen lost control of Finland's historically popular party in May 2014 by just 14 votes to union boss Antti Rinne in a fierce race.

On Saturday, Rinne easily won a second term as the SDP chair, claiming to have healed the rifts in his party, which will now move forward as a united front. 

MP Urpilainen was also on hand in Lahti, and commented on speculation about her possible bid for Finland's presidency.

She said she would discuss potential campaign issues with the newly-elected SDP leadership  and decide if she will run as the party's candidate by the end of February.

Veteran SDP politician Eero Heinäluoma predicted that she might run already last year, but Urpilainen wants some time to adjust to the idea before she commits. She has just returned to her work as an MP after a child care leave. Her family adopted a one-year-old child from Columbia last spring.

"I'm back in Parliament and I want to see how I manage to juggle my working and family life first," she said.

Candidate in place by March 2017

The SDP party elite will choose their 2018 presidential candidate in March, ahead of the municipal elections on April 9.

There are rumours that the Greens' Pekka Haavisto may also make a second presidential bid, after gaining a surprisingly close second-round result against the centre-right National Coalition Party candidate Sauli Niinistö in 2012.

The only candidate who has officially joined the race so far is the Centre Party's former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen. His previous attempt to win the post in 2006 garnered him the third most votes, after Sauli Niinistö and the winner, the SDP candidate Tarja Halonen.

The incumbent Finnish President Sauli Niinistö still hasn't announced whether he will seek a second term. Opinion polls indicate that he is extremely popular as President, and a December 2016 Taloustutkimus poll suggested that 52 percent of voters supported him.

Many candidates are likely waiting to hear whether Niinistö will be in the running, as it will effect their chances of winning significantly.

When asked what she thought about challenging Niinistö, SDP's Urpilainen said, "I've been happy with Sauli Niinistö's performance. He has continued in the footsteps of former presidents Mauno Koivisto, Martti Ahtisaari and Tarja Halonen."

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