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SDP names Tuula Haatainen as presidential candidate

Finland's Social Democratic Party voted MP and former minister Tuula Haatainen as its official candidate for the 2018 presidential elections on Saturday. An extra meeting of the party leadership was called in Jyväskylä to come up with a contender, making the SDP the last major political party to enter the race.

Tuula Haatainen
Tuula Haatainen Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

The Social Democrats of Finland have named their candidate for the post of Finland's president ahead of the January 2018 presidential elections. 57-year-old Tuula Haatainen is a veteran MP and has served as education minister and minister of social affairs and health in previous government cabinets.

Haatainen secured 48 percent of the SDP party membership votes, beating out two other hopefuls: MP Maarit Feldt-Ranta, who received 42 percent of the vote, and MP and former minister Sirpa Paatero.

Just 48 percent of the SDP's registered party members cast their vote in the proceedings, accounting for some 40,000 ballots. 

Haatainen's stump speech emphasized the social welfare state's significance as a guarantee for societal security and well-being. She also indicated her support for Finland's current foreign and security policy, although she said she would like to strengthen Finland's role in the European Union.

Feminist foreign policy

Haatainen called for so-called feminist foreign policy in Finland's development cooperation, in other words, special consideration for how decisions affect specific genders. She said Finland should make education a key focus.

She criticised President Sauli Niinistö without mentioning his name, saying that labelling people "extremists" and "rationalists" in the immigration debate is counterproductive. 

"Human dignity is an absolute and indivisible value," she said.

Joining a crowded field

Haatainen will compete against several other candidates for the presidential seat next year.

The incumbent Niinistö is running for re-election as an independent and polls suggest he has strong support. A campaign to collect the required 20,000 signed constituency association support cards is underway.

The other political party-supported contenders include MP and former PM Matti Vanhanen from the Centre Party, MP Pekka Haavisto from the Greens, Finns Party MP Laura Huhtasaari, Left Alliance MEP Merja Kyllönen and Swedish People's Party MEP Nils Torvalds.

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