Veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen has returned to Parliament, nearly half a century after he first became an MP.
The former foreign minister and long-time Centre party chair has transferred back to the Finnish legislature from the European Parliament. He has formed a one-man parliamentary group under the name of the Citizens' Party, which he founded but was ejected from this spring.
On Tuesday, the 71-year-old maverick was seated in the back row, as he did when he became an MP in 1970.
“Next spring I’ll be back in the front row,” he told reporters. Based on his results from his last presidential election bid, Väyrynen predicted that his party will score 15-20 seats in the Finnish Parliament in next March’s elections – as well as two seats in Strasbourg after next May’s European Parliament elections.
A long-time eurosceptic, Väyrynen has been seated just to the left of another centrist one-man group consisting of MP Harry ‘Hjallis’ Harkimo, who quit the conservative National Coalition Party in April. Väyrynen says this spot suits him.
“I consider myself a left-centrist or a centre-leftist,” he said.
Will vote no on 'sote'
Väyrynen said he will pursue the same ideals in Parliament as he did when establishing the Citizens' Party: “Finnish independence, Finnish neutrality, controlled immigration, regional policy that develops the whole country and issues affecting the poor”.
Väyrynen says he will vote against the 'sote' health and social services reform spearheaded by his former party, the Centre.
“I see it as a damaging reform in many ways,” he says. That vote was originally to have been held this month but has now been postponed until August or September.
This past spring Väyrynen said he would challenge Prime Minister Juha Sipilä for the leadership of the Centre, but then abandoned that plan and the party, even relinquishing his title of honorary lifetime chair. Meanwhile the Citizens' Party has expelled him and is suing him over financial irregularities.
Väyrynen has served as a government minister eight times across five decades, beginning as foreign minister in 1977 and ending in 2011 as foreign trade minister during the brief premiership of Mari Kiviniemi.
Mirja Vehkaperä, a Centre MP from Oulu, will take his place in the European Parliament. Mikko Kärnä – who held his seat in Helsinki for three years while Väyrynen stayed in Strasbourg after winning both seats – plans to seek re-election to Parliament next spring.