2007-04-17

This '70s show

The entertainment value of the new Cabinet just went up considerably thanks to two throwbacks to the 1970s: Minister for Foreign Affairs Ilkka Kanerva (National Coalition Party) and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen (Centre Party).

The pair are similar in many ways. Both started politicking as young men and came into the national scene in the 1970s. Both were known for enthusiastically pursuing friendly, neighborly relations with the Soviet Union (cough, cough). Both have served in many official positions and applied for considerably more. Both have had their name sullied by scandals. Kanerva sent lewd text messages to a young woman whose moderate fame was based on the size of her silicon implants; Väyrynen pinched a stewardess, fell of a chair in a bar, and "lived" in a small transportable cottage in Northern Finland so he could collect travel reimbursements. Both have scores of loyal supporters in their home region, Kanerva in Finland Proper and Väyrynen in Lapland, that have stayed with them through thick and thin. There are of course some differences, too. While both have a more than healthy self-regard, Kanerva is amicable and known as a good networker whereas Väyrynen is a pig-headed bridge-burner who keeps landing new jobs based on the theory that he'll do more damage outside than in.

It's difficult to say whether the Coalition leadership should be pleased about the Centre one-upping Kanerva's nomination by picking Väyrynen. Kanerva had come under a great deal of criticism - representative blog posts on the topic here, here, and here - but I predict that Väyrynen's nomination will easily upstage it as the focal point of criticism, thus taking off the heat from Kanerva. There's just no way to paint rewarding Väyrynen's post-election assery in a positive light. On the minus side, now the Coalition has to deal with Paavo Väyrynen for four years, a demoralizing prospect even for the hardiest soul.

On the practical side of things, I think that Väyrynen poses a much bigger risk to the government's smooth operation than Kanerva. Väyrynen has served as a Minister for Foreign Affairs before whereas Kanerva's foreign policy experience stems from his long membership in the Foreign Affairs Committee. The difference is that whereas following the government's foreign policy line shouldn't pose a problem for Kanerva, Väyrynen has built himself a profile as a critic of the European Union and an outright opponent of NATO. As obstinate as Väyrynen is, it's difficult to tell how much free thinking he will be doing this time around. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen might have his hands full.

2 comments:

tomia said...

I apparently have to remind you too about the Vladimirov incident. Väyrynen tried to involve the Soviet Union in the presidential campaign to get Karjalainen elected. Well, the plan wasn't as sinister as it may sound - the idea was to increase exports to the east in order to make that old drunk more credible - but nevertheless I wouldn't really trust the guy. He clearly went too far and never said sorry ;-)

Ari said...

In my defense, I did allude to Finlandization.

If Väyrynen apologized, would he still be Väyrynen? Not apologizing is part of the essence of väyrynendom.