President Niinistö did what many predicted he would, and won Sunday’s presidential election, becoming the first candidate to win the race in the first round since Finland started electing presidents by direct election in 1994. Niinistö’s final score was 62.7%, clearly above the 50% threshold needed to win the race outright. The Greens candidate Pekka Haavisto came in second with 12.4% of the vote, before the Finns party Laura Huhtasaari (6.9%) and the independent candidate Paavo Väyrynen (6.2%). Voter turnout was 69.9%, lower than the 72.8% in the previous presidential election.
Things to note:
- Lackluster support for other candidates shows that many electors abandoned their party-political alignment to vote for Niinistö, who ran as an independent backed up by voter’s association. Commentators have already called this a unique election in Finnish history, in the sense that most electors based their decision entirely on the personality of the candidate rather than the candidate’s party. This has more or less always been the case with Finnish presidential elections, but the trend was all the most pronounced in Sunday’s first round.
- Finnish electors showed that they want to have a president who is experienced, reflective and continues on the same path as before. In this respect, this vote was an outlier in recent Western elections that have brought to power often relatively inexperienced candidates or political underdogs who are clearly mounting a challenge to the current order. It’s hard to imagine a more established candidate than President Niinistö. Finns seem to value continuity, and many commentators maintain that there will likely be no drastic changes in the way Niinistö runs things.
- Pekka Haavisto performed worse than six years ago, but his 12.4% still fare relatively well in proportion to his party’s overall approval rates. In the polls, the Greens are behind both the Centre Party and the Social Democrats, whose candidates nonetheless lost out clearly to Haavisto.
- The leftist candidates, Social Democrat Tuula Haatainen and the Left Alliance candidate Merja Kyllönen only managed to amass a combined total of 6.3% of the votes. Some left-leaning voters might have turned to Haavisto, whose platform is also left-leaning on many questions, but all the same this marks yet another election in Europe where traditional left and centre-left parties face a stinging defeat.
- The Centre Party, that is, the current holder of the Prime Minister’s office was probably the biggest loser of the night, with its candidate Matti Vanhanen (4.1%) losing out to former party member gone rogue Paavo Väyrynen.
- There were two candidates in the race running on a platform of criticism towards EU and migration, Paavo Väyrynen and Laura Huhtasaari. Their combined percentage is 13.1. The Finns party candidate Huhtasaari, in her concession speech, congratulated her party for its work ‘for the fatherland’.
- Niinistö’s clear lead in the polls leading up to the election day made the election seem boring to some. As Helsingin Sanomat points out, however, that dullness might actually be a good thing. According to the paper, it is a sign of a ‘peaceful country’ where candidates with opposing views manage to sit around the same table and discuss politics in a civilized manner, for the most part at least.
Photo credits: Michał Józefaciuk (Wikimedia Commons)