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Finland - 2018 Presidential Election

The president is elected by direct vote for a six-year term under a two-round system. The same person may be elected for a maximum of two consecutive terms. When no candidate obtains over 50 percent of the vote, a second round is held between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes. A candidate may be appointed without an election being held should there be only one candidate contesting the election.

The media environment is pluralistic, and a variety of public and private television channels and radio stations, as well as a range of daily and weekly newspapers, offer diverse views. While print media circulation rates are declining due to the rise of digital media, they are still very high.

There were seven politicians who wanted to be Finland’s next President, but one of them is dominating the polls. The other six candidates are hoping they can change the situation. Because incumbent President Sauli Niinistö was so popular with voters, he caused major problems for his competitors.

Pekka Haavisto (Greens) won a lot of support at the previous presidential election in 2012, and came second behind Sauli Niinistö. Presidential candidates usually hold strong expertise, but the lack of foreign policy experience is a problem at least for Tuula Haatinen (SDP) and Laura Huhtasaari (Finns).Huhtasaari still got plus points for the way she performed in public. Huhtasaari was the only candidate who can charm an audience and stand out from the crowd. Meanwhile Merja Kyllönen (Left) and Nils Torvalds (Swedes) are members of the European Parliament, and could be somewhat unknown to voters back in Finland.

The Centre Party’s Matti Vanhanen, a former Prime Minister, had a lot of expertise. But his public imagine looked a little tired, and he could be placed between Haavisto and Niinistö, in the minds of voters.

Sauli Niinistö won a second term in office as Finland's president 28 January 2018 after securing an overwhelming victory in a first round election that never looked close at any point in the campaign. His image as a safe pair of hands able to handle relations with Russia proved decisive in winning a second six-year term in the largely ceremonial office. Despite finishing second Green rival Pekka Haavisto could not force a second round and conceded defeat early in the evening, and none of the other candidates secured more than 10 percent of the vote.

Voter turnout came in at 69.9 percent this year compared to 72.8 percent in 2012. In the end Niinistö finished up with 62.7 percent of the vote, ahead of Haavisto on 12.4 percent and the Finns Party's Laura Huhtasaari on 6.9 percent. He got the most votes in every single one of Finland's 311 municipalities, although there were 13 where he didn't clear 50 percent and so the election would have gone to a second round.

The rest of the field trailed in Niinistö and Haavisto’s wake, with parties doing badly. Not any party in particular, but the party organisation in general: some 67.9 percent of votes were won by candidates nominated by voters' associations rather than traditional parties. Sitting president Niinistö decided to go it alone, having run as a National Coalition candidate in 2012, and the gamble paid off handsomely. Likewise former Centre Party politician Paavo Väyrynen beat the party's official candidate Matti Vanhanen after having to gather signatures nationwide to secure nomination as an independent candidate.

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