Last evening Finns elected their new president. As it was expected almost from the beginning, Sauli Niinistö from the National Coalition Party came with the majority of 62,6% of the vote to 37,4 % for his opponent, the representative of the Green League, Pekka Haavisto.
The evening of the 5th of February, despite frozen weather outside, occurred to be very emotional to most of the Finns. The decisive second round of the elections for the 12th Finnish head of state took place and marked the end of 30-year era of the Social Democratic presidents. Even though the representative of the National Coalition Party, Sauli Niinistö was seen as a winner almost from the very beginning of the campaign, it is widely known that until the official presentation of the results, everything can happen.
The second position of his opponent the Green League’s politician, Pekka Haavisto, was the biggest surprise of the first round, however in the second one it turned out that he was not strong enough to challenge Niinistö. The only part of the country in which Haavisto gained majority of votes was the Åland Islands district, mostly inhabited by the Swedish speaking minority. The rest of the Finns trusted the National Coalition Party’s representative, however it is worth noticing that the turnout of these elections was the lowest since 1950 and states at 68,8 %. We may assume that it was mainly the fault of the weather (the average temperature in Finland yesterday was -25 C) that so few people decided to vote, while usually more that 70 or even 80 % Finns do that. Nevertheless, such conditions are not a surprise during Finnish winters, therefore it seems that in some parts of the country simply none of the candidates managed to get the support of the Finns who had voted for the other candidates in the first round.
Pekka Haavisto in spite of his defeat seems to be glad about his results, what he stressed during Sunday evening’s interview by saying that “from the summer’s five percent it is a good rise. Over a million people gave me their backing”. Undoubtedly he is right. After the elections he became one of the most wildly recognized Finnish politicians not only in Finland, but as well abroad. His position also proved that the role of the nationalist with their intolerant and eurosceptical slogans are no longer broadly accepted in Finland. He emphasized such values as an environmental protection, human rights, social equality and minorities’ rights. It is worth keeping it in mind that those matters are the same important as foreign policy and economy, which seemed to be a little bit forgotten for a while. Considering that, his result should be regarded only as a partial defeat.
The real winner however is Sauli Niinistö, described as pro-European and conservative, the same conservative as the Prime Minister, Jyrki Katainen. This is the first time in Finnish history when the politicians from the National Coalition Party perform the functions of the two most important politicians in Finland. In the future it will surely facilitate the legislative procedure, however we should not forget that as soon as the new president takes over his duties, he will hand in his party membership to become officially independent.
Surely, because of the limited power, the new president will not have the biggest influence on the Finnish political decisions, it is the role of the government. The most significant role of the head of state in Finland is, as suggest Helsingin Sanomat, to serve as the “shaper of the public opinion”. For that reason the public support during presidential elections is so crucial. Sauli Niinistö is present in the Finnish public sphere for many years and is regarded as a responsible and respected politician. His victory is undoubtedly a sign of a change, mainly in terms of his political background, however it seems that each victory announces some new resolutions. New president does not forecast any major or sudden shifts in his policy, stressing that president’s power is not big enough to do so. Most probably Finland will now get involved even more intensively in solving the eurozone crisis. The role of the European Union in Finland is still significant, that issue is not likely to change soon.