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I am afraid I am not providing a live blog in this second round of voting. It would have been a surprise of earthquake proportions for Pekka Haavisto to beat Sauli Niinistö, and that earthquake has not happened. Voting closed just over ten minutes ago at 20.00 Finnish time and the results of advanced voting and the first election day counts have come in. With around 53% of votes counted, Sauli Niinistö has 65,5% of votes and Pekka Haavisto has 34,5%.
Whilst Haavisto was never going to truly challenge Niinistö for victory, this has been a special turning point of an election. A Green reached the second round sending a powerful signal in a society still partially shaken by the success of True Finns in April 2011′s parliamentary polls, a Social Democrat will not be elected president for the first time in three decades. It’s also historic in that Niinistö will win with the greatest level of popular support since the president was chosen by direct voting.
Sauli Niinistö, of the moderate conservative National Coalition party, will be sworn in as President of the Republic on 1 March 2012. You can expect his first foreign visits, almost certainly to Sweden and then later to Estonia as per tradition, shortly afterwards.
The final margin of Niinistö’s victory will become clear when all the votes are counted, which should be at or just before 22.00. If you want to follow the full results, you can do so on the Justice Ministry’s website here: http://18.104.22.168/TP2012K2/e/tulos/lasktila.html (in English language)
Update 20.38 Yle, the public service broadcaster, has just announced its forecast for the final result: Niinistö 62,9%, Haavisto 37,1%. Not a bad result for Haavisto considering his background, party, and the popularity of his opponent.
Update 20.40 It is now impossible for Haavisto to win. Even if all the existing votes that are uncounted were for him, there simply wouldn’t be enough votes to bridge the gap between him and Niinistö. 81,7% of votes are now counted.
Update 20.55 Turnout in this election is low – only 69%, but with large variations in different regions. The Finnish-speaking countryside has the lowest turnouts. Weather has been bad and these areas strongly support the Centre party, and thus perhaps have little motivation to scrape the ice off of the car to go and vote in this contest.
Update 22.30 100% of votes have been counted. The final result is:
- Sauli Niinistö 1 802 400 votes, 62,6%
- Pekka Haavisto 1 076 957 votes, 37,4%
Government formation negotiations, Wednesday evening update
The Social Democrats and the Left Alliance have walked out of negotiations to form a new government, following 17 April’s parliamentary elections. According to Yle, the two parties could not agree with the others on economic policy matters. The moderate conservative Kokoomus party is leading discussions as the largest party. Kokoomus party chairman Jyki Katainen has said he will contact the Centre party already today to see if they are interested in joining negotiations with the remaining parties at the table, Katainen hopes now to form a non-socialist government comprising of his own Kokoomus, Centre, the Swedish People’s Party, and the Christian Democrats.
The Centre Party has previously made it very clear that it would sit in opposition during this parliament after it received a drubbing in the April elections. It remains to be seen as to whether Centre will do a U-turn and say yes to entering government (or at least the negotiations to form one).
Another risk is that the second place Social Democrats try to take the lead in forming a government. Some SDP voices have previously noted that they regretted that the True Finns were not going to sit in the coming government. SDP and True Finns share many similarities in economic policy, an area that will dominate this parliamentary term due to the global economic situation. It’s unlikely, but could the worst case scenario involve Timo Soini’s True Finns sitting in the next Finnish government after all?
Greens in Sibbo (Sipoo) will fight this autumn’s municipal election as an independent association according to a report from Radio Vega Östnyland. Most Green activists in Sibbo have cut their link to the national party because of the Greens’ government ministers stance on the annexation of south west Sibbo by Helsinki. When the matter came up in the government, the Green’s ministers supported Helsinki’s forced take-over of an area of south west Sibbo. This was passed in government by a vote of 8-4. The annexation will occur on 1 January 2009. Previously, around 95% of Sibbo’s electorate had voted against the proposal in a referendum organised by the municipal council. The decisions by both the government and later the high court of administration in favour of Helsinki have been seen by many as an attack against municipal democracy and as a victory of the large over the small. In many letters to newspapers, the annexation has been likened to rape.
After the decision, the Greens lost many members in Sibbo who resigned in protest. The same fate also affected Kokoomus (who are the second largest party in Sibbo’s local council), whose government ministers also all supported Helsinki’s forced annexation. The Greens now face a tough municipal election in Sibbo, with 3 of their 4 councillors stating they will not stand for reelection.
Currently, the Swedish peoples party (Sfp) has 20 mandates in Sibbo. The national coalition party Kokoomus have 10. SDP hold 6, the Greens currently have 4 and Centre has 3 councillors.
The image is from one of the several protests against Helsinki’s forced annexation of south west Sibbo that occurred during 2007.
My respect for Justice Minister Tuija Brax (green) grows almost every time I read or hear about her. As reported earlier, she has previously demonstrated her understanding of the needs of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland.
Now Brax has addressed the matter of the Sami people in Finland. She was speaking at the Forum for Human Rights at the parliament yesterday where she said that she considered that the rights of the Sami have been handled poorly in Finland. The chairman of the Sami Assembly Pauliina Feodoroff thanked Brax for finally admitting, as a person in a high position, that the state had dealt with Sami questions inadequately.
Finland has been criticised for not signing up to a convention that recognises the Sami as indigenous people. Brax stated that this matter will be taken up during the present government period. She also stated the government will approve the Nordic Sami Agreement this year. The agreement would pave the way for annual joint meetings of the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian ministers responsible for Sami matters together with the chairmen of all 3 countries’ Sami assemblies. The agreement also make a proposal for minimum standards of rights in connection to the Sami language, culture and society.
According to the Central Statistics Office, 1 777 persons have declared Sami as their mother tongue in the population registry (as of 31.12.2007). The number of Sami is likely to be higher than this however as you can freely choose which language (Finnish/Swedish/Sami) you register as your contact language with the authorities. Wikipedia states that there are around 6 000 Sami in Finland.
The image is the Sami flag, adopted in 1986.
The Minister of Justice, Tuija Brax (a member of the Green party), announced her proposal for the reform of Finland’s court districts. Their number is to be reduced by nearly half meaning a geographical redrawing of the map. Many had feared that this would be very bad for the status of Swedish in the court system, with most rumours suggesting that the proposal wouldn’t make any proposal for any Swedish-language majority court districts in the whole mainland. (Today there are three).
However, Minister Brax has proposed that the district for Österbotten with its administration in Vaasa/Vasa maintains a Swedish-speaking majority, encompassing the whole territory of the Österbotten region. Even Kristinestad and Jakobstad will maintain a courthouse, although their local court administration offices will close. The city of Kokkola (Karleby) with a Swedish-speaking minority was feared to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the high court in Rovaniemi, but will stay under Vaasa with new provisions to guarentee Swedish service.
The Pargas court district in Åboland and Raseborg court district will become parts of Finnish majority districts. However, new legal provisions will be put in place to ensure their is a separate unit to offer service in Swedish in the office in Turku/Åbo which will in future also be responsible for the Pargas area. Raseborg will also have its administration in the strong Swedish-speaking majority town of Ekenäs rather than the largely Finnish-speaking Lohja as was originally planned.
Minister Brax’s proposal has come to the relief of many who feared it would go much worse. Clearly, lobbying by Folktinget and Sfp has helped. Also, I don’t think we should forget to thank Brax herself. She has spoken very elegantly on the radio and television about the needs of Swedish-speakers, especially in judicial matters, to be able to access services in their mother tongue. Clearly she understands the needs of the minority far, far better than our Interior Minister Anne Holmlund (a member of the conservative Kokoomus party). Holmlund could learn a lot from minister Brax!
(Picture source: Lehtikuva Oy/Statsrådets kansli)