Finland’s liberals have utilised the northern European country’s presidential election to put geo-political issues high up the agenda in a European Union country neighbouring Russia.
All political parties, including LI full members Keskusta and the Swedish People’s Party (SFP), faced a tough electoral battle to unseat the incumbent president, Sauli Niinistö, who won in the first round with 63% of the vote, standing this time as a formally non-aligned candidate. Sharing her insight into the ballot, LI vice-president Astrid Thors (SFP) said: “Keskusta’s candidate, the former prime minister, Matti Vanhanen demonstrated that he was very well prepared for the job, had nuanced positions and pointed to the need to debate more global issues, not only those in the immediate neighbourhood.”
At a time of heightened tension between the European Union and Russia, SFP’s candidate Nils Torvalds MEP courageously sought to start a serious debate of the question of NATO – the military alliance between the United States and much of Europe. “The president is responsible for foreign and defence policy and Nils Torvalds was very clear in his views on NATO and future challenges, but alas he was not rewarded for his brave positions.”
As the tide of populism across Europe ebbs and flows the Finnish brand of illiberal politics, embodied by the True Finns, stagnated. “The populist and nationalist candidates collectively received around 13% much less than at the previous parliamentary elections, added the LI vice-president. Meanwhile the socialist parties recorded some of their worst electoral performances.