Aanesta sunnuntaina Pekka Haavistoa, numero 2.
The Finnish presidential elections are on this Sunday. By all accounts none of the eight candidates will win an outright majority, so there will be a second round a couple of weeks later between the top two candidates. The candidate most likely to pass through the first round is Sauli Niinisto, who came close to the presidency six years ago and has benefited in the polls partly from a sense that it was now his 'turn'.
The race is on for the second spot in the deciding round, with the most likely contenders being Paavo Vayrynen and Pekka Haavisto. Vayrynen has been in politics for half a century and is (in)famous in his own right, while Haavisto's profile has been much lower. He has, though, had a long career in Finnish politics and extensive experience in the UN, and the experience shows in his measured performances in debates: he is clear, concise and unflappable.
The man himself:
Haavisto has built a reputation as a negotiator, and he has managed to gain support well over traditional party lines. He has received considerable praise from even the populist, socially conservative Timo Soini, and he has been referred to as the 'next Martti Ahtisaari', the former Finnish president who won a Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago. Yet Haavisto's success has taken many people off guard: this is the first time Finns have come so close to electing a Green, gay vegetarian. Whose partner is an immigrant, no less. The Haavisto-phenomenon, if it emerges in the final count, certainly stands out against the backdrop of the True Finns' stunning success in the last parliamentary elections.
Haavisto's success in polls is due in small part to enthusiastic support online: this website was put together by independent supporters, this group has raised money for and independently produced supporting advertising, and this particular singer has been particularly active in rallying support. Oh, and this group has appropriated the Chuck Norris meme for Haavisto. Online support has significantly increased the reach of a candidate whose election budget is much, much smaller than his main competitors', and really given people a sense of being involved with and making a difference in the election.
Personally I have been proud and privileged to take part in some of the above online work. I have never been so enthusiastic or excited about any election or candidate, ever (not even when I was eleven and poured my soul into writing a very exciting tale - and even a bizarre poem - of how Elisabeth Rehn would definitely become president... erm.). A Pekka Haavisto presidency quite simply makes sense, and feels like the Right Thing for a more open, future-oriented Finland.
The challenge ahead now is to convert the online support into real votes. I know I will be madly refreshing the vote count on the day, having already done my duty over a week ago on the first day of early voting. Do me a favour: if you know any Finland-based Finns, nudge them along to the polling booths on Sunday. And remind them to vote for number 2.
As for the second round - well, anything is possible. As one of the volunteer-originated ads notes, miracles don't just happen: they are made.
Why "Le Haavisto"? Well, if you can't reach the giddy whimsy that results from picturing Pekka Haavisto as Finland's next president, you can also reach it by watching this: