Finland’s most left-leaning major political party, the Left Alliance, named MEP Merja Kyllönen as their presidential candidate for the January 2018 elections on Saturday.
Kyllönen, who was the only candidate in the running to represent her party, is the third candidate to officially enter the presidential race. She said she spent the last six months considering whether or not she would throw her hat in the ring.
"At the moment it seems as if I am the only younger woman among the candidates. As Finland celebrates 100 years of independence and women’s right to vote and participate in politics, I think this should be seen in the presidential elections, too," she said.
Originating from the southern town of Suomussalmi, the 40-year-old bioanalyst was voted to represent the Left Alliance in the European Parliament in 2014. She has been a member of parliament in Finland since 2007 and served as Transport Minister under Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen from 2011 to 2014.
Peace and the day-to-day
Kyllönen says she want to call attention to issues of peacemaking and ordinary people’s lives in her presidential campaign.
"It is important to talk about values and how we Finns and others can come together to help those who have strayed off the beaten path. It’s a platform for value discussions," she said on Saturday.
Before she can prepare for the presidential elections, however, Kyllönen has April's municipal elections to think about. She is running for local government in Suomussalmi, where she has been a council member since the turn of the century.
Left Alliance party chair Li Andersson emphasized the importance of naming a presidential candidate early.
"If we leave it until the autumn, too many voters will have already made their decisions in favour of other candidates," she explains.
Terho also interested in running
The first round of the next presidential elections in Finland will take place in January 2018. MEP Kyllönen joins the Centre Party MP Matti Vanhanen and Greens MP Pekka Haavisto as a confirmed candidate. Finns Party parliamentary group chair Sampo Terho has said he is prepared to represent his party in the race, but the party has not confirmed this.
The popular incumbent, President Sauli Niinistö, has not yet announced if he will seek a second term.