Finland’s Centre party gathers this weekend in the Lapland town of Rovaniemi. They will to elect a successor to former chair Mari Kiviniemi, a new party secretary and attend to all the normal party business.
Up to 4,000 delegates are expected to attend the meeting. They will choose between Paavo Väyrynen, Tuomo Puumala, Juha Sipilä and Timo Kaunisto to lead the party.
Centre party elections are often decided on the day of the vote, making the final days’ campaigning all-important. Puumala, a 30-year-old MP from Ostrobothnia, opted for a spot of last-minute karaoke with Meiju Suvas, a Finnish iskelmä (schlager) singer.
Puumala wants you
The song is Tahdon sinut (I want you), and the slightly goofy karaoke is well suited to a party grounded in a Finland far from the hip urban centres of the south.
Puumala had a loyal and diplomatic hope for the election.
”The most important thing is that the Centre party comes out of this as a winner,” noted the Kaustinen-born party vice-chair.
Paavo Väyrynen has considerably more political experience than Puumala. A veteran eurosceptic and long-standing Centre party bigwig, Väyrynen first became party chair in 1980.
He has filibustered parliamentary debates on Europe, and has been extraordinarily popular in the party’s northern, rural heartlands. When he switched from Lapland to the southern electoral district of Uusimaa in 2011, was not elected to parliament.
Delegates 'don't take direction'
Although some thought that might be the end of him, he bounced back with a strong showing in April’s parliamentary elections and is now looking to take back power within the party. He claims that the party newspaper Suomenmaa has not been entirely fair in its coverage.
”There has been strong direction from above,” he said.
Juha Sipilä, another Ostrobothnian, has faith in the independence of the party’s rank and file.
”This electorate cannot be directed from anywhere,” he smiled.
He has put so much into campaigning that he claims to have lost eight kilos during the election.