Kiviniemi downplays misfortunes of Centre Party, reiterates support for Lehtomäki
Prime Minister and Centre Party chairwoman Mari Kiviniemi says that Minister of the Environment Paula Lehtomäki (Centre) enjoys her full support.
Lehtomäki has faced a certain amount of controversy because of the stock holdings of her husband in the Talvivaara Mining Company. The Financial Supervisory Authority is currently looking into Lehtomäki’s possible role in the dealings.
On their annual Baltic cruise during the weekend, party leaders and activists mulled over various internal controversies and sagging poll numbers.
A poll released on Friday by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) gave the Centre Party about 19 per cent support. The exuberance of the June party congress was a distant memory.
Kiviniemi felt that Lehtomäki’s effectiveness as a minister had not diminished. She said that Lehtomäki is hardly facing any situations in which a conflict of interest might be a problem. The Prime Minister said that Lehtomäki had shown “sufficient openness” concerning the share holdings.
Lehtomäki, meanwhile, said on Sunday morning that she would no longer engage in public discussions on her husband’s holdings in Talvivaara. She spent most of the day sightseeing in the Latvian capital Riga with and her young child.
If Kiviniemi was worried about the problems facing her party, she did not show it.
“There have been some bruises, but they come and go”, she said.
“There is no division in this party”, she added, in reference to the rural waste water issue, which has caused some dissent. On the previous day, Centre Party Secretary Timo Laaninen warned against a “civil war” over the matter.
The Centre Party plans to discuss the rural household sewage issue with its supporters at the traditional rural evening gatherings, which some are already calling “sewage gatherings”. Slightly modifying a campaign slogan of the rival National Coalition Party, some of the people on the cruise came up with a slogan for the evening events: “Hey, we’re talking about s**t”.
During the cruise there was training for situations such as television interviews. However, few are likely to actually appear on TV, and one young candidate in the upcoming Parliamentary elections would have preferred advice on writing newspaper op-ed pieces, for instance.
The party faithful also pondered the Centre’s prospects for the coming years through 2020. Party Secretary Laaninen painted a somewhat grim picture. “A slow deterioration is underway at all levels.”
He said that there are far too many levels separating party members from the leadership.
He pointed out that the best part of the Centre Party brand is the party congress, but even there, the number of people attending has dropped off.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Government proposal: Home owners over the age of 68 to be exempted from tighter rural sewage treatment rules (24.9.2010)
Centre Party taking tougher stance on immigration (23.9.2010)
Environment Minister Lehtomäki’s husband has major interest in mining company (23.9.2010)