Finland politics: Quick View - Sampo Terho elected as Blue Reform leader
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- Economist Intelligence Unit
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- Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Election watch
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On December 16th 2017 Blue Reform held its first party congress since registering as a political party in November. At the congress, held in Tampere, party members elected Sampo Terho, the minister of European affairs, culture and sport, as the party chair.
In June 2017 19 members of parliament (MPs) split from the far-right The Finns (PS) after Mr Terho lost the PS leadership race to hardliner Jussi Halla-aho, subsequently prompting the party's ejection from the centre-right coalition government. Mr Terho and about 20 other PS members then formed Blue Reform, which returned to the coalition. Alongside Mr Terho's widely anticipated appointment as the party's leader, three deputy chairs were also appointed at the party congress: Jari Lindstrom, the minister of labour; Tiina Elovaara, an MP; and Tiina Ahva, who has headed the party's youth wing.
The responsibility for enhancing the party's future prospects now rests with Mr Terho, but a clear party leadership and organisational structure has already given Blue Reform a better chance of increasing its visibility and popularity among voters. The latest opinion poll conducted by Taloustutkimus, a market research company, provides an early indication that this has influenced voters; support for Blue Reform jumped to 2.3% in December, up from 1.1% in November. However, turning this into an upward trend may be a challenge; the party's biggest weakness continues to be its inability to distinguish itself from the seven other parties in parliament. So far Blue Reform has simply portrayed itself as a "reform-oriented" group and has attempted to distance itself from the far-right PS by taking a lighter stance on immigration and the EU.
This strategy has not yet attracted many voters, but the release of its official party programme in early 2018 could help it to shape and spread a clearer political message ahead of the regional elections this year and the general election in 2019. With a strong political message, Blue Reform has a greater chance of diverting support away from its closest competitor, the PS, which is currently polling at 7-8%.
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