Tuomioja to run for chairman of Social Democratic Party again
There was excitement in the air in the city hall of Kouvola in the southeast of Finland, when MP and former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja announced to a room full of supporters of the opposition Social Democratic Party that he would make another run for the chairmanship of the SDP.
Tuomioja was the first hopeful to announce his intentions in advance of next summer's SDP party congress.
Tuomioja is also calling for an advisory vote within the party's rank-and-file.
The present party leader, Eero Heinäluoma, opposes the idea of holding an advisory referendum before the party congress in early June.
Tuomioja feels that a vote among party members would be true democracy.
"I cannot think of a more convincing way in which the party could give a sign of its genuine desire for reform. Rejecting a vote among the membership is as clear a signal of wanting to preserve and protect outdated power structures and bygone procedures", he said.
Tuomioja would not say outright if he would seek the party's leadership if there is no vote among the members.
Tuomioja also called for continued debate on the politics and activities pursued by the SDP.
He was critical that the preparations for the SDP party congress were taking place behind the scenes and out of the public eye in the traditional manner, in which powerful circles within the party keep a tight grip on the reins.
"Debate should take place everywhere, where people interested in the future of the world, the country, and social democracy want to have it - even in events other than those licenced by the party leadership", Tuomioja said.
This could be seen as a possible reference to a meeting of the party's delegate council held in Kotka shortly before Christmas, when chairman Heinäluoma's strong supporter Matti Ahde encouraged SDP members to stop their "self-flagellation".
Tuomioja also sought to distance himself from Heinäluoma by commenting on relations between the SDP and the labour union movement. He said that cooperation should be based in "mutual respect for independence", and the SDP should not try to direct labour market activities or other civic action.
The core of social democracy in Tuomioja's view is in its values: human rights and equality. The party's success is at its best when these are implemented, in his opinion.
Tuomioja says that the success of the party is measured by how the status of those in the weakest position develops.
"Social democracy is not in need of a new direction. We need to see if we are on the right course", Tuomioja said.
Tuomioja does not feel that caring for the weakest is in conflict with the interests of the middle class, making reference to the "great insight" that he says took place in Sweden.
He sees no need to oppose high incomes, if they are earned in a just manner. However, he said that wallowing in stock options, and the elimination of the wealth tax are not in tune with basic social democratic values.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Party secretary Eero Heinäluoma chosen as new Social Democratic Party leader (10.6.2005)
Foreign Minister Tuomioja enters race for SDP leadership (4.1.2002)
Erkki Tuomioja named President of Nordic Council (2.11.2007)
Foreign Minister Tuomioja demands greater SDP self-criticism (22.3.2007)
Foreign Minister Tuomioja wins Non-Fiction Finlandia Prize (15.12.2006)
Foreign Minister Tuomioja seeks Social Democratic Party leadership (4.4.2005)