Russia’s war in Ukraine and destabilizing “hybrid war” actions on the eastern border have put foreign and security policy at the top of the agenda for candidates and voters.
November translates to ‘dead month’ in Finnish and it’s no one’s favorite time of year.
But the presidential election race is highlighting the Nordic nation’s winter darkness, as Russia’s war in Ukraine creates further instability “Hybrid War” The crackdown on the eastern border put foreign and security policy at the top of the agenda for candidates and voters.
EU Commissioner for Finland Jutta Urpilainen He is the latest and final major candidate to be added to the list for the January ballot. And he has left it late.
The Social Democrats’ late entry into the race betrayed its chances of victory – Urpilainen reportedly announced himself only to allow himself the maximum amount of time in the EU job without actually losing it.
She won’t even begin campaigning in earnest until December, which means her senior party leaders are faced with the bizarre insistence of appearing in public carrying a life-size cutout of the former finance minister in an attempt to keep her name intact. Is. in the public eye, while other candidates had begun their campaigns months earlier.
The powers of the Finnish President have diminished over the past four decades, but the officeholder still leads foreign policy outside the EU and is commander-in-chief of the Finnish military. It is one of the few presidential roles in Europe that is directly elected by the people and exercises executive powers.
Foreign and Security Policy Campaign
Finland’s entry into NATO and the geopolitical realities of being a wartime neighbor to Russia have shed more light on this election than ever before. It has attracted some ‘big beast’ candidates whose CVs include experience as Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, party leader, MEP and EU Commissioner.
“We are now at the center of Finnish security and foreign policy issues,” says. Pekka Haavisto, a Green politician who was the runner-up in the last two presidential elections and is the frontrunner this time too. The former UN special representative and foreign minister will become Finland’s first Green and first gay president if elected.
“People are asking about NATO, the future of Russia, the defense cooperation agreement with the US. And now in the last week there were a lot of questions about the Middle East and how it affects world politics,” he told Euronews.
“Even with China and Taiwan issues coming up regularly, people are following the news closely.”
Haavisto has woven together a broad coalition of well-known supporters from across Finland’s political spectrum – including his rivals’ parties – as well as household names in Finnish culture and sports to support his third bid for the presidency. Are included.
“It was important to get people with different political backgrounds behind my campaign, people already make choices based on personality, not traditional political party affiliations. But for the first time in my campaign we have an economic , and entrepreneurs,” he explains in an interview with Euronews as he was visiting a campaign event in eastern Finland.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon, to show that I’m not just a [left-wing] Candidate.”
former Prime Minister alex stubb Among the other leading contenders, most polls show the National Coalition Party candidate trailing Haavisto in the first round – where an outright winner would have to receive more than 50% of the vote – and trailing in a possible second round. Have many.
With an estimated €1.5 million from supporters and the right-wing National Coalition party, Stubb is running the richest campaign this election cycle.
He benefited from being out of touch with Finnish domestic politics and fighting in recent years, when after leading his party to fourth place in the 2015 election he left the country to work in Luxembourg and then Italy. A campaign to become ‘President’ When he was defeated as EPP, ‘Europe’ also collapsed spitzenkandidat A race eventually led to Ursula von der Leyen being appointed to the role.
While Stubb, also a former Foreign Minister and MEP, is undoubtedly at home on the international stage, his perceived lack of interest in domestic issues has affected his political career.
Being president would mean he would have to spend a lot of time cutting ribbons, drinking tea with pensioners and visiting factories among the more routine and mundane tasks of the role, something party insiders believe he would be more than willing to do. are not suitable.
life on the campaign trail
The presidential election campaign season in Finland is long, with potential candidates often struggling to gain attention in advance during the summer and then, once announced, participating in panel discussions, radio and TV interviews, shopping mall stump speeches and countless other events. Are subject to endless rounds of handshakes. Markets are available from every corner of the country.
“It’s a tough workload,” says Lee AndersonLeft alliance candidate who is also the leader of her party.
“I have to base my campaign on my work in Parliament because that’s what I was elected to do. We have a parliamentary recess in January and I’ll be able to use those weeks to tour around the country, and I’ll be there,” he told Euronews. “I will use the weekends in December for tourism,” she tells Ko.
She adds, “I love meeting people and unless you love people, you shouldn’t get involved in political matters. For me, that’s part of the job.”
Says, “When you give a speech, there is a strong sense of seriousness throughout the country and when I go to a market or a coffee shop or a library, there is a question-and-answer session with you.” Oily RehanA former EU Commissioner, he was on leave during the campaign from his job as Governor of the Bank of Finland.
“When you discuss foreign and security policy or the implications of NATO membership, or Russian aggression or the constitutional powers of the president, there is a very strong and deep silence in the room and you can feel that people are very focused on seriousness. There is emotion in the campaign this time,” he told Euronews.
Despite the overall serious nature of the campaign, Finland expects its presidential candidates to make a great deal of it in order to entertain voters and show off their personalities.
In the past, they had to endure cooking segments on morning TV shows, while this time the candidates appeared on a Saturday prime-time variety show, where a band played their favorite song and had to tell the audience the story behind it. Had to be told – according to a cynic This type of format is suitable for exploitation by any clever politician who can craft an emotional story to warm even the coldest hearts of Finnish voters.
“These so-called light programs have become part of all election campaigns, at least in Finland,” says Rehan. “Instead of thinking about whether I like it or not, I take it as a fact, I do it as much as possible.” I try to enjoy it as much as I can.” , who recently stood outside the Helsinki Library making lemonade with students to encourage them to become entrepreneurs.
“People are interested because they want a chance to get a glimpse of the candidates’ character and personality.”
Small parties get equal billing during campaigns
Traditionally in Finland, smaller parties put forward a presidential candidate, even if there is no real possibility of winning or reaching the second round. Individuals can also contest elections if they first collect more than 20,000 signatures from voters.
All major political parties are running for parliament this year, including the Finns Party, the Christian Democrats and Movement Now, but not the Swedish People’s Party. There are also individually declared marginal candidates who are unlikely to garner enough support to reach the ballot.
“There is a very competitive list of candidates who have had ministerial jobs, and who, like me, used to head a foreign policy think tank,” the independent candidate explains. mika altolawho collected enough signatures and polled high during the spring and summer, but whose support has since cooled.
He added, “Clearly this is a crossroads for Finland, with citizens and political parties wanting to put forward candidates who have a lot of credible experience.” While Aaltoola has had important foreign policy roles as head of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs – which he first stepped up to after a series of apparently fact-based appearances in the media when Russia invaded Ukraine – his The lack of direct political experience has shown as the race continues.
He admits he only has €25,000 in the bank for his campaign, a fraction of most other candidates, and he relies heavily on a team of volunteers.
“I don’t have a PR agency or a comms agency doing campaign strategy. That’s all missing,” he told Euronews after a turbulent few weeks when he faced bad press after a series of mistakes. , which a more experienced political operator would have had. How to avoid it in the first place is known.
Lee Anderson of the Left Coalition explains that “It’s important for a democracy that you have a broad representation of candidates with views on foreign and security policy, and smaller parties can raise important questions for us and for a lot of voters as well.” ”
Polling in the middle of the pack so far, Anderson is the youngest candidate in the field but has been the party leader for the past eight years. As an MP she sat on the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament; She was Minister of Education in the government of Sanna Marin and led her party in two successful general election campaigns.
“it is A platform to talk about foreign and security policy, which is an extremely important part of the conversation in Finland,” she says.
The first round of the Finnish presidential election will take place on 28 January. If no single candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, a second round for the top two candidates will be held on 11 February.