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Touko Aalto named new leader of Greens

MP Touko Aalto was voted the new leader of the Green League. In a bizarre twist of events, vote counters realized one box containing 400 votes had been left in Helsinki, and was hastily transported to the party convention in Tampere.

Touko Aalto
Touko Aalto Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The Green League has elected MP Touko Aalto, 33, as the new leader of the party at their party convention in Tampere. Aalto will replace incumbent Ville Niinistö, who has led the party since 2011.

Green League vice-chair Aalto was one of the clear front-runners for the chairmanship, along with MP Emma Kari.

During his campaign, Aalto emphasized how he would transform the Greens into a more generalist party, which would attract voters from all walks of life, not just trendy city dwellers.

Aalto was elected to the Jyväskylä city council in 2008 and to the Finnish Parliament in 2015, where he is currently serving as a member of the parliamentary finance committee and the social and health care reform working group.

Aalto gained an impressive 2,371 votes in the April 9 municipal elections in Jyväskylä, leading the Greens to become the largest party in the central Finland hub.

Lost votes, an excruciating wait and singing

The turnout for the leadership election was the party's highest ever, with 66 percent of Green League members having voted via mail, bringing in a record amount of 5 778 votes.

The result was supposed to be announced at 2pm Saturday afternoon, but the vast amount of votes took party officials by surprise, stretching the counting of the votes on to the evening. In a bizarre twist of events, vote counters realised one box containing 400 votes had been left in Helsinki, and was hastily transported to the party convention in Tampere. To ease the excruciating wait, party members started singing old Finnish classics to keep themselves entertained.

In an emotional farewell speech held earlier Saturday afternoon Ville Niinistö, who led the party for six years, thanked his fellow party members and made some final stabs at the sitting government.

"We must, as a party, pursue the premiership, because the people of this fine country deserve better," Niinistö said.

Currently the second-largest opposition party with 15 seats in the 200-member Parliament, the Greens posted the biggest gains in the 2017 municipal elections. They were the only major party to significantly gain support with a rise of nearly four percent, helping them to gain 200 more spots on municipal councils throughout the country.

A total of six candidates vied for the Greens' chairmanship. In addition to Kari and Aalto, Krista Mikkonen, Maria Ohisalo, Olli-Poika Parviainen and Mika Flöjt were up for election

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