Veteran Centre Party politician Paavo Väyrynen hints at run for leadership
With the announcement that Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen would not be standing for re-election as the leader of the Centre Party when the party meets in conference in June, a good many names were thrown up as possible successors.
Several happen to belong to women and also to the younger generation of the party, but now a new figure has emerged, and one whose political credentials are known to everyone in Finland.
Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen set the chairmanship ball rolling on Tuesday morning with a typically enigmatic announcement at a press conference that he was "not ruling out" his participation in the contest, saying that all those in leadership positions within the party are obliged to make themselves available.
Väyrynen would not answer the direct question of whether he planned to run or not.
It nevertheless appeared as though he very much relishes the idea of throwing his hat into the ring.
Väyrynen is a controversial politician, one who first took office during the Kekkonen presidency in the 1970s, and who might be seen as representing a step back into Finnish political history, but there is no denying that he enjoys considerable support in some sections of the Centre Party, and his experience of government is second-to-none.
Paavo Väyrynen has served as Minister for Foreign Affairs on no fewer than three occasions between 1977 and 1993, he has led the Centre Party itself before (from 1980 to 1990), and has been a Member of Parliament since 1970, with a break between 1995 and 2007 when he was instead a Member of the European Parliament, in spite of his being an avowed euro-sceptic.
Väyrynen is now 63, and he has stated that any candidacy would depend above all on a discussion within the Centre Partry of what it is they want in a new leader: experience or youth.
In any event, Väyrynen believes that the formation of a new leadership for the party to take them through to the 2011 general elections should be a combination of the two - either a young chairman with some senior figures at his or her back, or an experienced leader supported by deputies who would appeal to younger voters.
The issue of whether the new leader of the party would also automatically become the head of the current coalition government is also bound to concentrate minds as the battle for the Centre Party chair warms up in the course of the next few months.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen: careful consideration behind decision to give up Centre Party leadership (31.12.2009)
Vanhanen announces he will not stand for re-election to Centre Party leadership (23.12.2009)
COMMENTARY: Christmas break gives Centre Party figures time to consider Party leadership issue (15.12.2009)