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Väyrynen quits Centre Party, returns to Parliament early

The veteran politician says he will set up his own parliamentary group, and begin preparations to run next spring as a candidate of the Citizens’ Party – which he founded and was then expelled from in March due to financial irregularities.

Europarlamentaarikko Paavo Väyrynen puhuu medialle Keskustan puoluevaltuuston vuosikokouksessa Lahdessa lauantaina 21. huhtikuuta.
Paavo Väyrynen has served as a cabinet minister over four decades. Image: Samuli Ikäheimo / Lehtikuva

European Parliament member Paavo Väyrynen announced on Wednesday that he is leaving the Centre Party, relinquishing his title of honorary party chair, and returning to the Finnish Parliament earlier than expected.

Väyrynen said last week that he would return to the national legislature in September. Now he says he will reclaim his seat in June and plans to vote against the government’s sweeping reform of social and health care services, known as sote.

The veteran politician says he will set up his own parliamentary group, and begin preparations to run next spring as a candidate of the Citizens’ Party – which he founded and was then expelled from in March due to financial irregularities. He rejected that expulsion but then later said he was resigning from the fledgling party.

Väyrynen's announcement came a day after a Blue Reform MP Kaj Turunen defected to the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) - both government partners of the Centre. Last week NCP lawmaker Hjallis Harkimo quit his party.

No stranger to controversy

Just last Friday, Väyrynen said he was abandoning his bid to challenge Prime Minister Juha Sipilä for the Centre Party leadership this summer. He said then that he might still seek to become the chair of the Centre’s council of delegates

Väyrynen’s seat in Parliament has been held by Mikko Kärnä, the former mayor of Enontekiö, Lapland, who must now give up the seat.

Long seen as a maverick of Finnish politics, Väyrynen, 71, is no newcomer to political stunts and controversy. In 1970, he was elected to Parliament on the Centre Party ticket at age 23, going on to lead the party throughout the 1980s and to serve nine terms as a government minister. He opposed Finland’s EU membership and adoption of the euro, among other issues.

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