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This is Finland and in the middle Keskusta (Centre)
by Thanos Kalamidas
2012-04-03 07:34:06
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In a very twisted way the Finnish Centre party (Keskusta) reminds me of NATO, the North-Atlantic organization with long past expired day, absolutely no excuse of existence and still be there trying to prove that is alive from its grave. And you know what happens with expired products, they smell!

Keskusta is the continuation of the Finnish agrarian party with roots mainly in central Finland and the agricultural ruling areas. The party stood between the extreme right, the nationalists and the socialist-democrats that due to historic reasons covered the entire political spectrum from the centre-left to the socialists and Euro-communists. And came to its peak during the Kekkonen era that lasted for more than 25 years.

Urho Kekkonen and his legacy should have a very distinguish place in European history but unfortunately during his era Finland lived an isolation shadowed by the Soviet neighbour and the suspicion to the rest of the world the relationship with the then superpower brought. Finland’s relationship with the Soviet Union was the one of damage control and survival and the best way to do so was the “active neutrality” a doctrine which came to be known as the “Paasikivi–Kekkonen line”. Under it, Finland retained its independence while being able to trade with both NATO members and those of the Warsaw Pact. But of course that made the country suspicious and untrustworthy to both sides making the ruling of the country and foreign policy the most sensitive thing. Urho Kekkonen rose to all that prioritizing the need of national unity and the need of an industrial and economic evolution. Actually what we see today, to my opinion, the Finnish miracle is Kekkonen’s achievement.

Urho Kekkonen was something like a Finnish Willy Brandt and some of his ideas or acts were beyond the foundations or the traditions of an agrarian party or a political party that wanted to stand in between; there are tens of anecdotes that show a very strong and modern – comparing to his contemporaries - personality that has put a deep mark into Finnish life beyond politics. Among other things Kekkonen did was to change the name from the agrarian party to Keskusta, the centre party; but with the end of the cold war in 80s came the end of the Kekkonen’s era and in extent the end of the glorious times for the Keskusta even though the party with Esko Aho in its leadership and country’s Prime Minister’s seat entered the European Union. And then came Anneli Jäätteenmäki, another exceptional personality in Finnish politics that unfortunately and despite the fact that she had won the elections and she was the first woman prime minister in Finland she was forced into resigning due to anachronistic laws and agendas and interests far beyond politics. But somehow Jäätteenmäki was the beginning of the end for the Finnish centre party. Her successor Matti Vanhanen proved too little for both, the leadership of the party and the prime ministerial seat and his serving time was shadowed by a scandal that might have resolved in court rooms but left a lot of questions about transparency and corruption in this country.

Matti Vanhanen was the great hope at the time, young, inspired and inspiring in a party that grows old in every single aspect including its membership and ideas. In the beginning he looked the man of the time, ready to change things and literally lead the party with the agrarian roots to the 21st century. But soon Vanhanen proved to be unsubstantial, unseasoned and incorporeal. A man who didn’t want to change anything comfortably sitting on the good old times and the party’s history with the funding scandal and some stories about his personal life giving the final stroke to his political career living the party to the next unsubstantial, unseasoned and incorporeal candidate with one and only qualification, that she was a young woman Mari Kiviniemi and more importantly that she was standing in between the traditionalists like Mauri Pekkarinen and the modernists like Olli Rehn. Sadly Kiviniemi never accepted or perhaps understood that she was temporary keeping the chairman’s seat worm and she was just serving as a temporary solution until the in-party powers measure their strength and decide who’s really going to lead because she really tried to play the role of the leader failing and in her last speech while announcing her decision to step down she pointed that the party has not been united in supporting its chair.

Ideologically the party followed its leadership and while it started like an agrarian party became Kekkonen’s party adopting ideologically its leaders believes sometimes balancing between conservatism and liberally to end something without clear ideology with Vanhanen and Kiviniemi; definitely conservative and often antagonising the traditional conservative part Kokoomus and even the extreme right True Finns. The consequence of these ideological acrobatics was the party to lose its ideological identity and nowadays to look desperately and I’m afraid in vain for a leadership that can give a new push and perhaps resurrect a party in coma. I think that the only reason that keeps the members of the party from joining or unite with the conservative party is the heavy history of the party Kekkonen left behind otherwise everything else leads there. In the meantime everybody in the party stands in the centre doing absolutely nothing waiting. Waiting for something that might never comes!

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