A really simple guide to Finland’s 2024 presidential election

Finland gets a new president in 2024, after 12 years with Sauli Niinistö as head of state. He can’t run again, so there are a number of contenders to replace him.

This article provides some essential information about the race.

What’s at stake?

The job has changed a lot since Urho Kalevi Kekkonen was in power. The Centre Party strong man ruled the country from 1956 until 1982, managing relations with the Soviet Union and using that relationship to enforce his will in almost every area of Finnish politics.

He won office four times in a presidential college system, but by the end of his quarter century in office some had begun to question the concentration of power.

Since then there have been reforms to limit the powers of the president. In 1991 the office lost the ability to unilaterally dissolve parliament and call new elections, presidents were subjected to term limits (a maximum of two six-year terms), and the position became directly elected.

Martti Ahtisaari won the first direct elections to the office in 1994.

That transition has been viewed as a shift towards a more parliamentary form of government, with most decisions taken by a coalition government formed after parliamentary elections.

That means the president is the head of state, and has little say in the day-to-day running of the country, but they do have a constitutional role in foreign policy and his or her pronouncements are eagerly followed as a kind of ethical bellwether for Finns.

Government parties are keen to shore up their support and opposition forces want to remind voters that they are still around, so there is no shortage of candidates despite the somewhat diminished role.

When is the election?

Finns go to the polls on 28 January, with advance voting running from 17 to 23 January (17-20 January at polling stations outside Finland).

If no single candidate gains 50 percent or more of the vote in the first round, the top two candidates will go to a second round run-off on 11 February.

Who gets to vote?

Finnish citizens are allowed to vote. Those resident abroad can vote at embassies and consulates around the world.

How to vote

Those with the right to vote will receive two polling cards by post or electronically. The second card is to be used if the election proceeds to a second round.

Who is running?

There are nine candidates. Eight are members of political parties, although Pekka Haavisto and Olli Rehn are running as independents supported by at least 20,000 voters despite their long track records in party politics.

Mika Aaltola is running as an independent after coming to public prominence through plentiful media exposure after Russia’s assault on Ukraine in early 2022.

Alexander Stubb is a former minister and Prime Minister who has now returned to politics, representing the liberal strand of opinion within his right-wing National Coalition Party.

Pekka Haavisto is running for the third time after losing out for the Greens in 2012 and 2018.

Jussi Halla-aho is a populist and former Finns Party chair with a fervent online following who is looking to leverage his hardline immigration stances to maximise his support.

Olli Rehn has a long CV including ministerial and EU Commissioner posts, as well as a background in eastern Finland.

Li Andersson is the Left Alliance leader who has said she wants to offer a left-wing alternative for voters.

Jutta Urpilainen has taken time out from her role as EU Commissioner to run on the SDP ticket. She has previously led the party and served as Finance Minister.

Harry “Hjallis” Harkimo is an MP, businessman and former presenter of the Finnish edition of “The Apprentice”. In 2018 he defected from the National Coalition Party to form his own group — Movement Now.

Sari Essayah is the Christian Democrat candidate. A former race-walker, she is presenting a conservative view on social issues during the campaign.

Yle’s presidential election compass offers a viewpoint on how the candidates line up on various issues. The compass is available in English here.

Who’s likely to win?

Yle’s most recent poll shows both Stubb and Haavisto out in front. Behind them are Rehn, Halla-aho and Urpilainen.

Most Finnish presidents have had backgrounds in the National Coalition Party, the Centre Party, the Social Democratic Party or these parties’ predecessors.

A second round of voting is triggered if no candidate receives a majority in the first round of votes. Polling shows that a second round of voting is likely in this election.

In the second round, many voters will be faced with a situation in which they cannot vote for their favoured candidate, but will instead have to choose between the two remaining contenders.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.