Finland’s opposition Greens party will choose a new leader in early November. Touko Aalto, who took over as chair in mid-2017, announced on Wednesday that he is stepping aside.
Aalto has been on sick leave due to exhaustion since mid-September.
Greens Secretary Lasse Miettinen and Party Council Chair Kaisa Hernberg made the announcement at a press conference at the party's headquarters on Wednesday afternoon.
Aalto said he has suffered from depression for about a year. The 34-year-old MP from central Finland said he has tried everything, but that the illness has advanced and fatigue has taken away his ability to work.
Last week his sick leave was extended through 16 November. Now Aalto said that he has been put on sick leave until the end of the year. He said he will announce later when he might return and his future plans.
"I cannot serve my team"
“After long and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I will step aside from the Greens leadership post. I need more time for my recovery. The Greens meanwhile need a chair who can immediately lead the party toward the elections,” Aalto wrote in a Facebook post.
“This decision has not been easy, but it is the only correct one. Due to my health condition, I cannot serve my team,” he added.
While Aalto has been away from his post, the party has been led by its first deputy chair Maria Ohisalo, who will continue to serve as interim chair until the 3 November meeting. Ohisalo, 33, is not an MP. Another opposition group, the Finns Party, is led by a non-MP, Jussi Halla-aho.
Unique term-limit system
The Greens have been losing support in recent months, with half a year to go before parliamentary elections. They still remain Finland’s second-largest opposition party and fourth largest overall, with support of 11.6 percent in this month’s Yle/Taloustutkimus poll.
The daily Helsingin Sanomat notes that the Greens' popular previous chair, former environment minister Ville Niinistö, was forced to step down due to the party's unique term limit of three consecutive two-year terms for any chair, although he apparently would have wanted to stay on. The party has also imposed a four-year maximum for members of the party board and council.