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Young immigration sceptic elected as Parliamentary speaker

The Finnish Parliament is electing Speakers to lead the legislature for the next four years. The Finns Party candidate, an immigration sceptic, was selected as Speaker of Parliament.

Maria Lohela, ps.
Maria Lohela as seen in an Yle election interview video. Image: Yle

Traditionally Finland's Speaker of Parliament is chosen from the second-largest party in the legislature, with his or her two deputies from the two other biggest parties. On Friday afternoon, MPs voted in relative newcomer Maria Lohela as Speaker, with two veteran pols set to become deputies.

Lohela, a 36-year-old second-term MP, was one of those who signed a 2011 manifesto criticising multi-culturalism and calling for sharp limits on immigration, asylum, and development aid. It was written by former MP Jussi Halla-aho, who has since moved on to the European Parliament.

Lohela becomes the second female Speaker of Parliament -- besides the Centre Party's Anneli Jäätteenmäki, who held the post for just three weeks before becoming prime minister in 2003. Her predecessor as speaker was Riitta Uosukainen of the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), who chaired the body for nearly a decade from 1994 to 2003.

Lohela is also one of the three youngest MPs ever to hold the position, which has typically gone to a veteran politician.

Pekkarinen and Risikko likely deputies

The Centre Party’s parliamentary delegation on Friday morning nominated veteran politician Mauri Pekkarinen as First Deputy Speaker. He won by a margin of 31-15 over another party elder statesman and former minister, Seppo Kääriäinen.

On Wednesday the NCP named Paula Risikko as its candidate for Deputy Speaker. She served as Minister of Transport and Communications for the past year after an earlier stint as Minister of Social Affairs and Health.

Newly-inaugurated PM Juha Sipilä temporarily held the post of Speaker of Parliament in recent weeks while he led government formation talks.

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