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Professor Teivainen: Stubb will be a lame duck if he survives

David Mac Dougall
Teivo Teivainen: Stubb will be a lame duck if he survives
Teivo Teivainen: Stubb will be a lame duck if he survives
Kokoomus Chairman Alexander Stubb will be a "lame duck" if he somehow survives an upcoming leadership challenge, Professor Teivo Teivainen tells David Mac Dougall on this week's episode of Newsmakers. Teivainen says Stubb has "become a disappointment" for many inside his party, and could well be replaced by interior minister Petteri Orpo.

National Coalition Party Chairman Alexander Stubb will be a "lame duck" if he somehow survives an upcoming leadership challenge.

That's the view of Helsinki University's Professor of World Politics Teivo Teivainen.

Speaking on Newsmakers, HSTV's weekly English-language current affairs show, Professor Teivainen says that finance minister Stubb has "become a disappointment for many people, especially inside the party".

"He's had embarrassing difficulties with numbers on TV and in front of parliament, where it's been clearly shown he's not been telling the truth" says Teivainen, citing one example of a gaffe that Stubb made during the past year in government.

At the end of this week, Stubb will face a vote at the National Coalition Party's summer conference. His opponents to lead the party are current interior minister Petteri Orpo, and Kokoomus backbencher Elina Lepomäki.

Professor Teivainen thinks it's the end of the line for Stubb, who was Prime Minister for a year until spring 2015, and held the posts of foreign minister and Europe minister in previous governments.

"I think Petteri Orpo will be the new Chairman, it's quite clear that both the parliamentary group of the party and much of the party leadership are behind him" says Teivainen. "Alex Stubb is a good campaigner, so there is a chance that he might win the vote there, still, I think it's unlikely".

If Stubb were to somehow survive the popular vote from party members, but without the support of Kokoomus MPs in parliament, then it would undermine his authority and credibility. "In case Stubb was able to survive, he would be some sort of lame duck" says Teivainen.

The National Coalition Party has been framing the vote - which takes place at the end of this week in Lappeenranta - as a chance for discussion among party members, and a choice between differing political outlooks rather than a test of personal popularity. Professor Teivainen says the party would continue on a centre-right trajectory if Stubb remained leader, but would head more to the right, if either Orpo or Lepomäki were in charge.

This would be particularly clear "in the case of Elina Lepomäki, who has brought a refreshing consistency in debating some of the issues, from what some would consider a classical right wing liberal position" notes Teivainen.

A win for Petteri Orpo could also sit well with President Sauli Niinistö, if he decides to run for a second six-year term in office. Professor Teivainen says there are persistent rumours of a rift between the President and Stubb, especially over the question of Finland's possible NATO membership. Orpo's measured comments on the subject could make it more comfortable for the President to campaign on his party's ticket in the 2018 presidential election, with Orpo leading the party rather than Stubb, according to Teivainen.

"There's this generalised gossip around friction between Niinistö and Stubb" says the professor, "Stubb is more outspoken in his preference for NATO membership and Orpo is more careful in choosing his words there, and Niinistö likes that more".

Among Finland's other mainstream political parties, there are two other elections for party leader this summer.

The Left Alliance already voted Li Andersson to be their new chairperson this week. Professor Teivainen says that her "landslide" victory "obviously consolidates her position".

"There are many expectations there, because she's very charismatic in the media, and most people probably expect that the party is likely to go up a little bit in opinion polls"

Andersson was a guest on Newsmakers in November 2015.

Professor Teivainen says Andersson's win is a gift to some sections of her party. "I think the fact she is considered more left-radical than others [...] means the more traditional hard core socialists associated with the party, she offers a window of hope".

The Swedish People's Party look likely to elect Anna-Maja Henriksson, a former justice minister, to replace Carl Haglund, who is stepping down as party leader. Teivainen says that a win by Henriksson would likely cause discomfort for some. "What I heard inside the party there is some of the old boys that are not so happy" he says. "Some consider Anna-Maja Henriksson to be a little bit more towards leftish position on social positions, whereas some core people in the party would like to take a more market liberal kind of position" he says.

The Centre Party of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä will also hold their summer conference, and Professor Teivainen says the major point to note is whether Sipilä manages to continue to move the party more to the right of the political spectrum. Originally an agrarian party, with strong roots in the Finnish countryside, the centre-right Centre Party under Sipilä's leadership has aligned itself more with coalition partner Kokoomus' politics.

"If Sipilä is able to keep his party together, and avoid major dissidents [...] then I think the government stands a chance of having a more ideological coherence around the Kokoomus-Centre Party axis" says Professor Teivainen.

"The main axis" in the three party coalition government, which includes the populist Finns Party "is very clearly Kokoomus and the Centre Party. But I think we should watch what people within the Centre Party, the rank and file, is saying" cautions Professor Teivainen.

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