Mr. Sauli Niinistö, of the centre-right National Coalition Party, and Mr. Pekka Haavisto of the Greens, qualified for the second round in the Finnish presidential elections.
The first-round polling, which took place on 22 January, yielded 37.0 % for Mr. Niinistö and 18.8 % for Mr. Haavisto. The third place with 17.5 % went to the EU-critical candidate Mr. Paavo Väyrynen of the Centre Party. The second and decisive round between Pekka Haavisto and Sauli Niinistö will take place on 5 February.
The Left Alliance candidate was the party chairperson Mr. Paavo Arhinmäki, who got 5.5 % of the votes. Many Left Alliance voters backed up Pekka Haavisto in order to increase Haavisto’s chances for entering the second round.
The president of Finland has been a Social Democrat for the past 30 years, but now the Social Democratic candidate, Mr. Paavo Lipponen, took only 6.7 % of the votes, while his party still gathered 19.1 % in the 2011 general elections. The former prime minister has been widely considered as moving the Social Democratic Party towards neo-liberalism during his reign in the 90s. Some commentators have also held that Mr. Lipponen’s age of 70 years became clearly manifest in his television appearances.
The leader of the True Finns, Mr. Timo Soini, got 9.5 %, which is significantly less than the 19 % support his party got in the 2011 general elections. Probably Mr. Soini did not genuinely even want to become the president but preferred to remain as the leader of his party.
Pekka Haavisto’s success is the most interesting feature of these elections. With his gentlemanlike behaviour and tranquillity, Haavisto is able to attract voters widely across the party political boundaries, even from the True Finns, although he is living in a relationship with an Ecuadorian man, promotes pro-EU policy and is in favour of strong internationalism.
Since the foreign policy privileges and legislation power of the president have gradually been reduced, symbolic issues and personal characteristics may decide the final outcome, but it will be interesting to see whether there will be big political issues such as climate policy that could play a key role in distinguishing between the two candidates.