And the winner is…

…Sauli Niinistö who becomes Finland’s first conservative president since 1956. He replaces the popular, Social Democrat president, Tarja Halonen in March.

I’m still not completely clear what the role of the president is in Finland as it seems that unlike say in the US, the executive functions of government are performed by ministers. Apparently, the job is largely a ceremonial one, for example hosting a big shindig on Independence Day.

Coming myself from a country where the head of state is always conservative, as well as being unelected, the idea of the president being from the right-wing Kokoomus (National Coalition) Party doesn’t sound too many alarm bells.

As for Mr Haavisto and his supporters, I think they can be more than satisfied with a result which, after the success of the populist and anti-immigration ‘Basic’ Finns in parliamentary elections last year, has restored many people’s faith in the Finnish electorate.

In a vane attempt to follow Pekka Haavisto’s successful use of social media, Instant Kaamos is now on Twitter: @instantkaamos.

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One response to “And the winner is…

  • Toby Archer (@TobyinHelsinki)

    Traditionally the President’s role was to lead foreign policy (which due to Finland’s geography and identity has always included defence policy). Kekkonen became an almost-dictator by leveraging his complete control of Finno-Soviet relations to also control all domestic politics, with grace and favour to the flunkies and sycophants (including some who remain senior politicians today) and utter marginalisation to those who wouldn’t play the game – there is a long and not entirely unfair history to the True Finns anti-elitism for example. After joining the EU the constitution was re-written to say the government was responsible for all EU matters, and more and more foreign policy issues are now coordinated within the EU before they go out to the rest the world (the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy – CFSP) which has taken power away from the President and given it to the Government. Supposedly foreign policy is now the responsibility of the government and president together, but many seem to think the new constitution isn’t clear here and is a failure. During Halonen’s time she would sometimes go to EU summits where there would be only one chair that the PM would take. I heard civil servants say it was embarrassing as she would “hang around in the corridors” with it not being obvious what she was meant to do. I think it’s likely the Presidency will become progressively more German (ceremonial) and less French (executive) over time. The Eduskunta has become more like your average western parliament over the last 20 years and less like some Warsaw pact style rubber stamp for the president’s wants – as it was in the 70s.

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