Suvi-Anne Siimes tenders resignation over split in Left Alliance
List of possible successors quickly in place
As we reported in Wednesdasy's edition, the chairwoman of the opposition Left Alliance Suvi-Anne Siimes has announced she will be stepping down and that she will not seek-re-election to Parliament in the 2007 elections.
The internal split within the left-wing party - in particular with the hardline former Communist faction - has reached crisis dimensions, and Siimes decided she had had enough.
Siimes has stated that she has no wish to promote the election to Parliament of former members of what was known as the orthodox Communist "Taistoite" faction (after its leader, the late Taisto Sinisalo).
She levelled blame particularly at Jaakko Laakso, a former Communist and Left Alliance MP from Vantaa, saying that it would be impossible for voters from the Uusimaa constituency - which both she and Laakso represent - to vote for the Left Alliance if Laakso were among the candidates.
Siimes acknowledged that there was no reason why the Left Alliance should not contain a variety of political opinions, but said she no longer had any wish to be a parliamentary candidate under these circumstances. She does not believe she can retain the chair of the party and lead an election campaign if she is not herself among those standing as a candidate.
In recent weeks, Siimes's disappointment with her party and its parliamentary wing have been in plain sight on the chairwoman's Internet diary.
In particular, Siimes and Laakso have crossed swords on matters of foreign and security policy.
Her shock announcement on Wednesday immediately set the rumour mill working on possible successors. Her main adversary within the party itself, Jaakko Laakso, suggested the name of the head of the Left Alliance parliamentary wing Martti Korhonen. Korhonen stood against Siimes and lost in 1998.
Korhonen himself had no immediate comment about a possible run, and expressed his surprise at the day's developments.
Former party vice-chairman Kari Uotila MP said he had "no particular aspirations" for the position, but that he had not ruled out a campaign. Another MP, Markus Mustajärvi, who had earlier remarked that he was considering challenging Siimes in 2007, declared that he had not made up his mind, either.
The Left Alliance's two current vice-chairmen, Risto Kalliorinne and Minna Sirnö, are also both possible candidates. The two vice-chairman and the party's secretary Aulis Ruuth will serve as acting chairmen until a successor is chosen, perhaps at an extraordinary meeting of the party congrees in the summer.
One significant name who has at least initially declared himself out of the race is MEP Esko Seppänen. Seppänen, 60, said the party should be taken forward by someone from a younger generation.
Seppänen is another who has often not seen eye-to-eye with Siimes: she has had difficulty with older members of the party whose political roots lie in the communist movement of the 1970s, and it is these problems, both on the personal and the party level, that have brought about the present impasse.
The Left Alliance currently has 19 MPs in the 200-seat Finnish Eduskunta, and one MEP in the European Parliament.
The party was established in 1990 following a merger between the Finnish People's Democratic League (SKDL), the Finnish Women's Democratic League (SNDL), and the then-bankrupt Communist Party of Finland (SKP). Its brief history has been marked by regular internal spats and disputes, as it was formed by people with very divergent views on society.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Left Alliance leader Suvi-Anne Siimes announces resignation (1.3.2006)