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Fresh ideas, more contenders expected in challenge to Alex Stubb's reign

David Mac Dougall
Fresh ideas, more contenders expected in challenge to Alex Stubb's reign
Fresh ideas, more contenders expected in challenge to Alex Stubb's reign
Finance Minister Alex Stubb faces a political fight from within his own party, as Elina Lepomäki challenges him to be the new National Coalition Party leader. This week on Newsmakers, Harri Jaskari talks to David Mac Dougall about what it means for the party, how many other candidates are expected to run for the job, and why the veteran MP is part of 'Team Elina'.

She may only have two years tenure in parliament, but Elina Lepomäki's "new kind of ideas" and international business experience make her the ideal candidate to replace finance minister Alexander Stubb as leader of Finland's National Coalition Party (NCP).

That's the view of 'Team Elina' supporter MP Harri Jaskari, speaking on HSTV's English-language current affairs show Newsmakers.

"I believe that we need a real change in Finnish society" says Jaskari, adding that Lepomäki "thinks about Finnish society from a different angle".

Lepomäki announced last weekend that she would stand for the role of NCP chair. The party is also commonly referred to as Kokoomus. Current chairman Alex Stubb has held the post since a three-way tussle with Jan Vapavuori and Paula Risikko which was resolved by a vote at the party's summer conference in 2014.

At the core of Elina Lepomäki's challenge is her belief that Finnish workplace regulations are too burdensome, and that there must be greater flexibility for businesses which allow them to be more internationally competitive.

Citing reform successes in Germany and Sweden, Jaskari says the governments in those countries "really trust at the enterprise level what they can do". He noted that while globally, the last recession had ended, in Finland the economy was stagnating. "We need new comparisons, from Sweden, from Germany, from other countries who are now doing just fine" he says.

The campaign believes that in Finland, the state takes too many business decisions that could be left to individuals. Other European economies have already recognised this, and adapted to it, while Finland has lagged behind, Jaskari explains.

"We can see that some countries are going very well, but we are just staying in that old position, and I am worried that we wait so long (to turn the economy around) that there are other recession coming, and we haven't done anything" Jaskari says.

Lepomäki's supporters are now concentrating on getting her ideas more widely known among the Kokoomus party faithful. "Now it is time for the next step" says Jaskari. "Really talk with MPs, talk with activists in Kokoomus party, and go everywhere. Go to every city or countryside area in Finland and talk about what are these new ideas".

Jaskari concedes that Lepomäki is hardly a household name in Finland, but hopes to create enough buzz around her to change that. "It's true Elina is not so well known yet, but the people who have been close to her recognise that there is something new going on".

Party members will vote on 11th June at the annual conference in Lappeenranta, and Jaskari indicates there are likely to be more candidates joining the race. "I think it's very good for the party that we have many candidates" says Jaskari, and although he hopes for "five to six candidates" in total, he refused to be drawn on which other party figures might stand against Stubb.

Alexander Stubb took over the reigns of Kokoomus after the departure of former Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, who quit government unexpectedly in spring 2014 to become Finland's EU commissioner in Brussels. A year later, Stubb failed to deliver electoral success for Kokoomus, leading them to a third place election slump, behind the Centre Party and Finns Party - with whom they went on to form a right-of-centre coalition government.

"I'm never blaming Alex, he has done his best" says Harri Jaskari, who has been an MP for Pirkanmaa constituency since 2007, and worked as NCP Party Secretary for two years before that.

"Alex did a very good campaign, the government programme is very good" he says, before adding that in government "it is two against one" with the coalition partners clashing on how to follow the government programme. Jaskari - and 'Team Elina' - clearly believe their candidate would be a more effective operator inside government than incumbent Stubb.

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