Opposition party secretary steps down over criminal investigation
New secretary to lead National Coalition Party election campaign
The Delegate Council of the opposition conservative National Coalition Party has named a new party secretary. Taru Tujunen, 35, replaces Harri Jaskari, who stepped down on Friday in the wake of a criminal investigation.
Jaskari was to have been named to a new term on Saturday, but plans changed on Friday when it was revealed that he was being investigated by police on allegations of beating his former girlfriend and helping her sell sex services.
The scandal comes as the party is preparing for Parliamentary elections in March. Taru Tujunen said that she is preparing for the elections with confidence, although she admits that the allegations against Jaskari are "a serious matter".
"I believe that Finns understand that the National Coalition Party is not a party to this", Tujunen said at the meeting held in the city of Lohja in the south of Finland.
Tujunen was a key figure in the Presidential campaign of her party's candidate Sauli Niinistö, and preparations for the elections are her main task now as well. A Porvoo resident, Tujunen is a teacher by profession, and has worked as campaign manager for the upcoming Parliamentary election.
An opinion poll conducted by the party indicates increased support, and the party is also getting more members. In spite of the growth, there is concern within the National Coalition Party about the implications of the Jaskari affair.
The party chairman, MP Jyrki Katainen, emphasised on Saturday that the National Coalition Party is not a party to the Jaskari case. He also emphasised that the police investigation must be respected, and that conclusions should not be drawn until it is complete.
Katainen also said that there had been many messages from individual party members and supporters offering encouragement to Jaskari.
At an emotional press conference on Friday, Harri Jaskari said that he would step down from the party secretary post because he does not want to hurt the party's success in the elections.
He also gave a detailed account of his relationship with the Estonian woman who accuses him of violence and pimping.
The two had met in Tallinn in the spring of 2003. The relationship ended in early 2005, but the woman had left some of per property in Jaskari's Helsinki apartment. Jaskari says that early this year the woman "showed up again", and he gave her the key to the apartment so that she might move her things out.
in the summer he says that he had noticed that far from moving her things out, the woman seemed to be living in the apartment. At this point, he installed an extra lock, and sent her a registered letter giving her until mid-July to remove her things, or he would sell them at auction.
In August Jaskari was contacted by police who told him that the woman was accusing him of violent behaviour, and that the police suspected her of selling sex, using their former home as a base. If Jaskari allowed her to use his apartment for such activities, it could be seen as a form of procurement.
"I can sincerely say that I never knew that this would be possible", Jaskari said in a trembling voice.
Suspicions of physical violence concerned the time that Jaskari and the woman were together. He says that he had defended himself "in a few situations", but would not go into detail about any actual events.
Jaskari has been named a candidate for the Parliamentary elections in the Pirkanmaa district. He said that the duration and result of the police investigation will determine if he will remain a candidate.