MP-elect wants "influential" position or he will return to European Parliament
New Parliament elects Speakers for duration of government formation talks
Parliament had its first working day on Tuesday, and the MPs elected an interim Presidium of a Speaker and two Deputy Speakers. The leader of the Centre Party's Parliamentary group Timo Kalli will sit in the Speaker's chair while government formation talks proceed. He was elected on Tuesday with 189 votes from among the 200 members.
The first Deputy Speaker is the National Coalition Party MP Ilkka Kanerva (who received 178 votes) and the 2nd Deputy Speaker is Johannes Koskinen (SDP, 183 votes).
The makeup of the Presidium will be looked at again after a new government has been formed. Of the three men elected, only Koskinen has been chosen by his fellow SDP MPs to sit for the duration of the entire electoral term.
The biggest talking-point of the first Parliament session was elsewhere, however. It concerned the position of the Centre Party MP Paavo Väyrynen, who was elected in the Lapland constituency and made a return to Finnish politics after several years as a MEP at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Väyrynen is a former Centre Party chairman and was Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs on three occasions between 1977 and 1993. Despite being openly eurosceptic, he has been a member of the European Parliament since 1995, when Finland joined the Union.
On Monday, when all the elected Members of Parliament had their mandates checked - the first formality before taking up their seat - Väyrynen was conspicuous by his absence.
He has declared publicly that he wants either a ministerial post in the new government, or a seat on the Speakers' podium for the duration of this Parliament.
If these requirements are not met, he has said, then he will give up his seat and will continue his job as an MEP. The next elections to the European Parliament are not until 2009.
Because Väyrynen did not "clock in", as it were, on Monday, he was not permitted into the Parliament chamber for the voting on a new interim Presidium, and the few votes that were cast in his favour were rejected.
Väyrynen does not intend to have his mandate checked until the new government, still only in embryo, has been put together and the final line-up of the Presidium is clear. He says that he wants an "influential" position in the new government and Parliament, such as he regards his present role at the European Parliament to be.
If Väyrynen were to have his Parliamentary mandate ratified and were to take up his seat in Helsinki, then his work as a MEP would cease under the rules of the European Parliament.
Alternatively, Väyrynen could ratify his status as a Finnish MP, but announce that he was not going to sit in Helsinki, but would return to the European Parliament. He could then come back from there at any time of his choosing, either before or after the next European Parliament elections. In that case, for the duration of the time he is away, his seat in Helsinki would be taken by the first runner-up from his party and constituency in last week's elections - in this case Simo Rundgren.
However, Väyrynen has made it clear that he does not wish to use this alternative.
He sought on Tuesday to get the Centre Party MPs to put his name down as the candidate for the "permanent" Speaker's position, at the same time as they chose Timo Kalli to hold the office while the new government is being formed.
At a press conference that he arranged on Tuesday, Väyrynen reported that he had discussed these matters with Kalli and the Centre Party Chairman Matti Vanhanen, but without any result.
Two Centre Party MPs did in fact put forward the suggestion of electing two persons to the Speaker's chair at Tuesday's meeting, but when the idea did not take wing they withdrew their proposal.
Meanwhile, Matti Vanhanen told Helsingin Sanomat that he had reported to Väyrynen that his long parliamentary experience would be taken into consideration in any choices made, but that there were no firm promises to be had.
Until such time as Väyrynen makes a move one way or the other, the Centre Party's representation in the new Parliament is technically only 50 MPs, although the party won 51 seats in the election.
This means that the moderate conservative National Coalition Party - who won 50 seats - are technically on a par with the Centrists.
It is nevertheless not thought that this detail will affect the passage of the upcoming government formation talks, which have been widely expected to lead to a new centre-right coalition of some kind, replacing the Centre Party-SDP-Swedish People's Party grouping that ran Finland for the past four years. The election that was held on March 18th saw a resounding defeat for the Social Democrats, while the opposition National Coalition Party gained ten seats nationwide.
The Secretary of Parliament Seppo Tiitinen was unable to say on Tuesday exactly how long an MP could refrain from showing his mandate to the assembly.
Väyrynen himself was of the opinion that he could quite easily continue as at present for the three weeks that the government formation talks are expected to take.
European Parliament: Paavo Väyrynen