Centre Party chooses newcomer Juha Sipilä as new chairman
First-term MP overwhelming choice of party congress
First-term Member of Parliament Juha Sipilä, 51, was chosen by the opposition Centre Party congress in Rovaniemi on Saturday to replace Mari Kiviniemi as the party’s chair.
In the second round of the voting, Sipilä defeated the party’s deputy chairman Tuomo Puumala 1251 votes to 872. A third candidate, Paavo Väyrynen, fell out of the running in the first round.
Sipilä’s first goal is to secure a victory for the Centre Party in the municipal elections in the autumn.
“The aim is to be number one already then, but moving forward is the most important thing.”
The main goal is the Parliamentary election of 2015. “But municipal elections are very important. The elections are a statement on the direction in which the municipal reform is taken”, Sipilä says.
There are plenty of floating voters hovering between the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party. Sipilä believes that his background in the business world could benefit the Centre Party in attracting this constituency.
Sipilä now plans to give up his post of deputy chairman of the party’s Parliamentary group, and is considered likely to get some more prestigious seats on Parliamentary committees than he has had so far.
In a lengthy plenary session on Saturday, the aim of “unifying the party” was repeated over and over. Soon after Sipilä won the vote, he said that party unification would be his primary goal.
Sipilä also appealed to Paavo Väyrynen for support as party chairman, saying that as honorary chairman, Väyrynen has an important role in the party.
“I hope that you could encourage and train us younger ones in questions of foreign and security policy”, Sipilä said.
Väyrynen promised his full support as well as is possible. Although he did not leave the venue of the meeting after his defeat, Väyrynen did not hide his disappointment. “Of course I am disappointed, because I had a good campaign and I assumed that I might have had more support.”
Väyrynen would not say what he plans to do next, but he reiterated that he will not be relegated to history yet. “Time will tell.”
The Centre Party congress gave Väyrynen a standing ovation in a moment that both the delegates and Väyrynen himself found moving.
Tuomo Puumala admitted that he was disappointed at his defeat. “Now we’ll support the chairman who was chosen. The group has spoken, the popular movement won.”
Juha Sipilä thanked all of his opponents. His final words were directed at outgoing chairwoman Mari Kiviniemi.
“Mari, you have done wonderful work. I would have wanted you to continue.”
MP Annika Saarikko was re-elected as one of the party’s deputy chairs. Also chosen as new deputy chairs were MEP Riikka Manner and MP Juha Rehula.
MP Antti Rantakangas was fourth in the race. He and Sipilä competed for largely the same votes, as they were both from the Oulu electoral district.
Party secretary Timo Laaninen was easily re-elected, getting more than half of the vote in the first round.
The new party leadership convened for its first meeting on Saturday evening.
More on this subject:
PROFILE: Juha Sipilä
Previously in HS International Edition:
Väyrynen comes out narrowly ahead in advisory vote for Centre Party leadership (28.5.2012)
HS evaluates political values of Centre Party leadership candidates (21.5.2012)
COMMENTARY: Centre Party and the ring of silence around Mari Kiviniemi (3.4.2012)
Poll: Väyrynen and Puumala favourites for Centre Party leader – over half of respondents have no opinion (6.6.2012)