As the campaign for municipal election is ending, we had the opportunity to interview Ville Niinistö, the leader of the Greens.He has been touring Finland in order to support local candidates, who have been multiplying in the whole country, and not only in the big Finnish towns.
How is the campaign going for the Greens?
Well, it’s been a very good campaign. I don’t think I’ve had any such good campaign so far in my political career, because people all over Finland are more positive towards the Greens and our ideas and alternatives than before. And I think it has to do with the fact that we have focused a lot on issues where we are giving an alternative which is more humane to the present policies from the government. It is for example the case for education and funding of the schools, and for sustainable development. There is high interest for an alternative that is promoting reform, but keeping in mind the idea of a welfare state, where everybody has an equal chance.
Are you expecting some surprises on the evening of the elections?
It’s certainly going to be a very tight and open race, especially in Helsinki. There we have an open situation with Kokoomus about which one of us is going to be the biggest party leading Helsinki. That is going to be a very interesting issue during the night. And then, I would say that, for us, the most important thing is that those who support us should go to vote. The higher the turnout, the better it is for us, because we have, at the moment, very high popularity among the Finnish population, a positive image, but that is not sufficient, people need to go voting, so that’s our main job now to convince them.
What is your position about the social and health reform, which is quite important for municipalities?
The SOTE reform, the social and health reform, is one of the main issues for these elections, but it’s decided in the parliament, it’s a national issue. We have been very clear on this topic, we think that the government is hastily going forward with a marketization of the whole social and health services, in a way which undermines the guarantee of providing equal services to all. And there’s a lot of risk, also, that the social and health public services have to be turned into companies, and this kind of structural reform on the public side may also create a lot of problems that are unnecessary problems. So, for us, it’s acceptable to move the responsibility of social and health services to the regions. For us, it should be kept under public control, and there should be, also, direct financing, meaning taxation at the regional level, and not subsidies given through the government. So, the model that is promoted from the government side is now creating weak regions and strong marketization, and we can vbe sure that inn such a system the capitalists will know how to get profit, but it will be at the expenses of Finnish poorer people, elderly people, and people in the countryside. So, we are not behind that.
I’ve understood that you are withdrawing from the leadership position in the party. What are you going to do after that ?
First, I’m going to have a little bit more time with my children. That is something that they and me personally value very much. But I will be continuing in the parliament for the next two years, at least. And we’ll have to see what role the new party leader wants me to have. I’m open to support the new leadership. But there may be also something else I might end up doing. So, I’m kind of on a positive note that this is the final result of my period as the party leader, so we want to get a good result and get a good level for the next parliamentary elections, and also to make more humane, sustainable policies in the municipalities, and give the Finnish people hope of a better future. That is what we want to achieve. This is my role in these elections. And I may work for that goal in some other role in the future. It’s sometimes good not to be locked in a certain position, and to have different doors open.