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Home NATIONALOppositions, experts term Stubb pro-NATO leader
Sat, 14 Jun, 2014 12:53:19 PM
Mixed reaction among politicians to new Kokoomus chair
FTimes-STT-Xinhua Report, June 15
The three candidates who contested for the post of Kokoomus chief during the party council in Lahti. Photo Lehtikuva.
Although leaders of the components of the five-party ruling alliance have expressed positive views at the victory of Alexander Stubb in the race for the Kokoomus (National Coalition Party) chair, leaders of the opposition parties have been found to make opposite remarks.
The president of the Social Democratic Party, the second biggest component of the ruling alliance, Antti Rinne termed Stubb an outward-looking and open politician, which will hopefully also reflect in the government co-operation.
Rinne, also the finance minister, said economic growth and employment are common objectives for both the Social Democratic Party and the National Coalition Party.
Greens Chairman and Environment Minister Ville Niinistö believes in smooth cooperation in the government and hoped that after change in the government the political line would remain unchanged.
Niinistö, however, expressed his concern at the broader gap between the top leaders of the Kokoomus and the SDP, which might hamper the coordination in the government.
Chairman of the Christian Democrats and Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen thinks the main goal of the mini-government negotiations is strengthening Finland’s competitiveness and employment.
Räsänen said the government has changed a lot after changes in the presidency of the two major allies, but he believes that cooperation between Stubb and Rinne will be smooth.
In the first domestic political reactions, chairman of the opposition Finns Party Timo Soini described Stubb as a "NATO hawk" and said the party had switched from conservatism to liberalism, reported news agency Xinhua.
True Finns chairman Timo Soini thinks Stubb’s choice as the chairman of the Conservative Party would reveal their real hair.
The chairman of another opposition party, Keskusta (Centre), Juha Sipilä said he was surprised at the victory of Stubb as he was expecting Economic Affairs Minister Jan Vapaavuori as the chief of the Kokoomus.
News agency Xinhua adds: Alexander Stubb, aged 46, succeeds Jyrki Katainen as the chairman of the ruling National Coalition Party, and will take Katainen’s post as the prime minister later this month.
Addressing the party assembly before the vote on Saturday, Stubb said, if elected, he would have to convince both the “nation’s leadership” and the people about the NATO issue. 
Commenting to Xinhua, Timo Soikkanen, a professor of political history at Turku University said Stubb will probably be the most pro-Western prime minister of Finland since World War Two.
Soikkanen said the pro-NATO attitude within the Finnish elite has been evident since the start of the Ukraine crisis.
On the Finnish ideological scene, the election of Stubb as party chairman is likely to enhance liberal attitudes within the Finnish conservative party, Soikkanen said.
In the final vote within the National Coalition Party in Lahti, central southern Finland, Stubb defeated moderate conservative Social Affairs Minister Paula Risikko 500-349. In the first round of the election, Economic Affairs Minister Jan Vapaavuori dropped off the race, having got a few votes less than Risikko.  
The formal change in the cabinet posts will be preceded by policy talks between the coalition partners. The Finnish five-party coalition government is to review next week agreements on economic savings plans agreed during the previous cabinet.
The talks may not be totally without friction as the second main party in the coalition, the Social Democratic Party has difficulty in accepting them without at least some changes. 
The support levels of the social democrats have been declining and their new chairman Antti Rinne is facing pressure to try to alleviate the impact of the savings.
Stubb was a member of the European Parliament for 2003 to 2008. He served as the Finnish foreign minister in 2008-2011. Since 2011 he has been the minister for European affairs and foreign trade.
In the 2014 election for the EU Parliament last month, Stubb gathered the largest voter support in Finland. 
Stubb’s native language is Swedish. He is the first native Swedish speaker as the prime minister of Finland since social democrat KA Fagerholm in the 1950s. 
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