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Paavo, Sauli, the dinosaur's battle for the presidency.
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-09-14 07:09:40
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Even though admired from many involved in politics far beyond the Finnish boarders Paavo Lipponen, the Social-democrats’ candidate for the Finnish presidential elections of 2012 didn’t really inspired me when I first encountered with is policies and mainly his attitude in the parliamentary elections of 2003. What I saw back then it was a pompous bully, tied to his seat, refusing to move and ready for that to sacrifice any sense of dignity. But then again I think that after some years when the truth comes out and only history will be able to judge what happened during that period we will all find out that it was one of the dirtiest campaigns in history of modern Finland.

But if history will judge what happened in 2003 in the future the same time history has credited a politician who has been active in Finnish politics since 1967 despite controversial moments like his alleged - and never proven - involvement with east Europeans or transatlantic allies and foes. Paavo Lipponen belongs to those social-democrats who took a more right-wing attitude towards economic issues for example – according to them more pragmatic in a capitalist reality – but kept traditional socialist approach to social issue and he was the one who led Finland into the 21st century as a full European Union and Euro-zone member after a decade’s recession.

Actually Paavo Lipponen represents the perfect model of the European socialist in the end of the 20th century, left phraseology and right attitude but he made his cycle and the year he celebrates his 70th birthday not many things could add to his legacy except a …presidency! And what’s better opportunity than the present when the dark extreme right raises, the present leaders are shadows compared to his era leaders and Europe is in a crisis lacking strong political will. That’s why somehow he high-jacked the candidacy from the SDP bringing the party’s leadership in front of a situation they had to back if they didn’t want to be embarrassed.

Sauli Väinämö Niinistö his contestant in this race is there for similar reasons. But in his case a conservative who tries hard to show a more modern image – his personal life had often hit the tabloids’ covers in early 2000 – who was always “there” but never succeeded to get what he was dreaming candidate Prime minister but ending deputy PM under the socialist Paavo Lipponen, presidential candidate and badly defeated by Tarja Halonen, the present Finnish president. He also thought of it as a good chance seeing the right increasing dramatically its power, whipsawed between the conservative Kokoomus and the extreme right The ‘true’ Finns but united to his face, the NATO issue rising for one more time and of course his favourite immigration and euro-finance themes making daily cover-pages to all the media.

Both of them have also to deal with a very old issue that always rises during presidential elections. The president’s powers. Finland is a parliamentary republic with president but compared to all similar western democracies the Finnish presidents have some “extra” and very real powers regarding the governing of the country. Actually they have not only the power to veto government’s decisions but they can dismiss state’s policy especially when it comes to the foreign policy. Of course there is an explanation for that; the very same explanation there is about a lot of laws covered under the ghostly threat of national security and having their roots in the cold war, the persecution mania and the isolation Finland lived for long after WWII. Political parties, leading the centre party Keskusta, want to trim these powers and trim them a lot and for good feeling that the president can ignore the parliament with those extra powers something perhaps under the circumstances useful back in 1940s or 1950s but dangerous for the democracy nowadays.

Now how much these two want a trimmed presidency that’s a whole new story but their battles over NATO, immigration and the European union will be definitely interesting to watch especially hearing the arguments from two men who have to do a lot with Finland’s past – however close - but very little with Finland’s present and what they represent probably reminds relics and dinosaurs of politics. I suppose president’s Tarja Halonen comment when she heard about Lipponen’s candidacy is closer to the truth than anything else, this is going to be colourful election!

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