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Presidential Candidate Paavo Väyrynen – Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Paavo Väyrynen is an old dog in politics. But what kind of a president would he be? Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Paavo Väyrynen, 71, is running for the president for the fourth time. He’s been involved in politics for more than five decades. He is the epitome of the Finnish affairs of the state; an old dog who could, perhaps, still learn new tricks.

Though, he can’t be tricked into foolery or these days be provoked to say something he doesn’t want to. He believes in good relations between Finland and Russia. He is, for example, not bothered by minor violations of the Finnish airspace by our neighbors. A couple of mid-aged journos tried to provoke him into an emotional response during a recent election discussion on TV regarding the topic, but Väyrynen kept his cool.

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Väyrynen has been around too long to care about haters or generalizations or journalists. 54 percent of the Finnish voters said in a recent poll that they would never vote for Väyrynen in their dear life. In Väyrynen’s world, this is such another peculiarity. In his world, it’s just . . . one . . . poll.

When Finland was about to receive refugees from Vietnam in the ‘80s — refugees known as the Vietnamese boat people — Väyrynen, who served as the foreign minister at the time, was one of the objectors.

One of the reasons for the long list of naysayers could be of his agenda to separate Finland from the European Union. For Väyrynen, the agenda is nothing new or trendy. He voted against Finland joining the EU already in 1995 when Finland joined the union. Väyrynen was pushing for a Nordic Union, or Coalition if you may, — between the Nordics — because “that way Finland would have retained its independence,” he said at a presidential debate at Sanomatalo in downtown Helsinki on Tuesday.

“Independence” is the trend word of today among certain groups of people who usually are objecting immigration and demanding of closing the borders. For Väyrynen, the word means more. He’s seen Finland with and without the union. His detestation for the EU derives partly from the fact that the union has made many Finnish farmers bankrupt due to bureaucracy and legislation.

Väyrynen entered the presidential race in a hurry after a direct flight from the EU Parliament’s headquarters in Brussels (he has been an MEP for 15 years) just before Christmas. His constituency association had collected the needed 20,000 supporter cards. In these elections, Väyrynen is not a representative of any political party — even if he has a long history with the Centre Party, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe — so according to the law, 20,000 supporters are needed to place a candidate to the presidential elections. (For comparison, 10 supporters are needed for a candidate in municipal elections and 100 in parliamentary elections.)

Väyrynen got help in gathering cards, for example, from “Suomi Ensin (Finland First)” movement — the most famous campers at the Helsinki Railway Square, who had sworn that they will be opposing asylum seekers “as long as the refugee tent” rises opposite the square in front of Ateneum Art Museum.

After numerous encounters with the asylum seekers and three suspected assaults — a total of five months of protesting — , the Finland First camp was ripped apart by the police in June, after the authorities had condemned the camp a threat to civil peace.

Väyrynen was asked about he feels about such supporters. He said he doesn’t care. “What matters is the vote,” he snorted. “If the person has some opinions, so be it.”

In Väyrynen’s world opinions can change overnight. When Finland was about to receive refugees from Vietnam in the ‘80s — refugees known as the Vietnamese boat people — Väyrynen, who served as the foreign minister at the time, was one of the objectors.

But after a good night’s sleep and international pressure on his slouching shoulders, he changed his opinion! The refugees were now welcome. And he assured in public that he had always supported of helping those in deep waters.

Once Väyrynen supported the price increase of margarine. The studies of the time had, according to Väyrynen, proved that butter was healthier than margarine and so, the price of margarine should be increased. When the press asked, which studies he was referring to, he denied the whole greasy thing. The media had again “distorted the truth.” In some circles, this is called “lack of courage.”

In public, Väyrynen, however, appears fearless. “If we all had the confidence of Paavo Väyrynen, Finland would have no problems,” said the Left Alliance’s presidential candidate Merja Kyllönen at the presidential debate in Sanomatalo.

After been involved in almost everything the politics have to offer, the only thing left for Paavo Väyrynen would be to become the President. The time is ticking, and he’s not getting any younger. He’s been waiting for his chance for over 60 years, when he in secondary school assured his class that he will, in fact, become the President.

Presidential elections are held on January 28 2018, with a second round on February 11, if necessary. The elected president’s term will be from March 1, 2018, to March 1, 2024.

The candidate in a nutshell:

Name: Paavo Väyrynen

Age: 71

Hometown: Keminmaa (municipality)

Marital status: Married

Children: Two boys, one girl

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