Finnish Green Party on Saturday elected its former chairman and twice-presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto as its new party chairman.
The party council elected Haavisto with 40 out of 41 votes. The only one vote went to MP Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto.
Haavisto, 60, succeeded Touko Aalto, who was elected chairman in June 2017. He announced in October that he wanted to step down on health grounds and said he suffered from depression.
Haavisto takes over the party at a time when the popularity of the Greens is down to close to 11 percent. It started coming down from its peak 17 percent some months after Aalto became chairman. Aalto had problems with his media image.
Haavisto will serve as the chairman until the general party convention is held in June, 2019.
Haavisto said on Saturday he believes the Greens have a political agenda for success in the parliamentary election next April. He said that "all that the Greens have done must be communicated to the people."
In mid-2017 the Greens were seen even as a potential leading party. Their losses in popularity have benefited mainly the social democrats and the Left league, observers say.
While an actual socialist majority in the next parliament is unlikely, the Greens and the two left wing parties could reach majority. On Saturday Haavisto mentioned first the social democratic leader Antti Rinne when asked about cooperation with other parties.
During the past two weeks, nearly all possible candidates said they did not want to run. When the former chairman Ville Niinisto announced this week he would not run either, Haavisto remained the obvious choice.
Haavisto was elected to parliament in 1987 when he was 29 years old. He was chairman of the Greens in 1993-1995 and then the party's first cabinet minister.
The culmination of his political career was the 2012 presidential election when Haavisto got over a million votes in the second round, far exceeding the green voter base. Sauli Niinisto got the majority and was elected.
Haavisto was the green candidate also in the 2018 presidential election, but no second round was arranged as Niinisto got a majority in the first round.
Besides his parliamentary work, Haavisto has been active in conflict management. He came to the party council meeting directly from Eritrea.