Heinäluoma sucks, Social Democrats find

After the parliamentary election the Social Democratic Party set up a working group, headed by Antti Kalliomäki MP, to look into what went wrong. (My answer.) Helsingin Sanomat has gotten a peak at the committee's report, said to be "nearly finished", and the working group's analysis is... underwhelming. It's possible that the full report considers all the objections I have and more, but I'm not going to let little details like that stop me.

The working group "did not find much fault in the policies carried out by the SDP when it was in the government", but instead criticizes the party's election campaign and chairman Eero Heinäluoma. It correctly notes that the campaign's focus on investing in government services led to the question of why such reforms hadn't been implemented during SDP's time in office. But Heinäluoma didn't come up with the idea on a lark. Rather, it's an extremely important issue to the party's base. We can ask whether it's smart to bring attention to the government's failure to invest in services during a time you were in the government, but even then the campaign only brought to fore a preexisting problem, which was that the party's policies during its 12 years in government clashed with its voters' priorities. Simply not talking about services wouldn't have mollified said voters.

As for focusing the campaign more on Heinäluoma's prime ministerial candidature, that doesn't sound like a good idea to me, either. When there's a popular incumbent in the race, as was the case in this election, it may not be the best idea to run a campaign based on who will be the next prime minister. The working group says Heinäluoma's "role as a party leader was seen as 'distant' and 'cautious'", which I tend to agree with, but we should consider the possibility that putting more attention on him would have only strengthened those views. Moving Heinäluoma from his Helsinki electoral district to the Uusimaa electoral district to challenge Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, as the report suggests, would have only led to people wondering how badly Vanhanen will beat him - and just how badly Sauli Niinistö will beat them both.

Going forward, it may be significant that the critique is centered on Heinäluoma's campaign-related decisions. Now would be a good time for a new chairperson to take the reigns, as SDP is almost bound to gain back some support in coming elections just by virtue of being in the opposition. Heinäluoma hasn't shown any inclination yet of stepping aside, though, and challenging him on the basis of one poor election result would be a risky endeavor. (So look for the Social Democrats to ditch him for Tarja Filatov MP.)

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