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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://184.108.40.206/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%
22.23 100% of votes have been counted. The result of the first round of the Finnish presidential election 2012 is clear:
- Sauli Niinistö, National Coalition Party 37,0% Goes through to the second round of voting
- Pekka Haavisto, Green party 18,8% Goes through to the second round of voting
- Paavo Väryrynen, Centre party 17,5%
- Timo Soini, True Finns 9,4%
- Paavo Lipponen, Social Democratic Party 6,7%
- Paavo Ahrinmäki, Left Alliance 5,5%
- Eva Biaudet, Swedish People’s Party 2,7%
- Sari Essayah, Christian Democrats 2,5%
21.55 99,4 percent of votes counted. The second round is in two weeks time between Sauli Niinistö of the National Coalition party and Pekka Haavisto of the Greens. What will the campaign look like? It certainly seems likely those that voted for Väryrynen and Timo Soini will overwhelmingly give their support to Niinistö. Ahrinmäki’s are likely to go to Haavisto, as are many of Lipponen’s and Biaudet’s. The others are perhaps harder to say, some will go to Haavisto, others to Niinistö. Will we see a more even match in the second round than we’d ever have expected a few months ago? Who will the excluded losing candidates throw their support behind?
21.35 Around 97% of votes counted: not much has changed. It looks like it will be Niinistö against Haavisto in the second round of voting on 5 February.
21.17 Worth noting, that with 91% of votes counted, Haavisto received only 14,6% of votes cast during advanced voting, but so far 21,4% have gone to him on the actual voting day (today). Whilst Väryrynen’s support was stable (18 and 17,9% respectively). Tactical voting?
21.10 Professor Göran Djupsund says he would be “very surprised” if Haavisto was not second now. It is the urban vote that is disproportionately not counted yet and he is now on 18,5% to Väryrynen’s 17,7%.
21.02 Yle notes that Väryrynen didn’t even get 3000 votes in April 2011′s parliamentary election, when he lost his parliament seat.
20.59 Eva Biaudet of the Swedish People’s Party has done better than the party’s candidate, Henrik Lax, did in the last election in 2006. Then he won 1,6% of the vote, Biaudet is currently forecast to get 2,7% of the vote.
20.55 Yle’s forecast has been updated and now predicts Haavisto will go to the second round with 18% of the vote to Väryrynen’s 17,9%.
20.54 This screen dump from Yle shows their prognosis in full:
20.52 Yle’s prognosis, which is usually reliable, has finally been released by the national broadcaster. Yle forecasts that Paavo Väryrynen will go to the second round against Niinistö.
20.35 Yle reports many advanced votes from the cities Helsinki, Turku and Espoo have not been reported in yet! In other words, things will change a lot most likely. Many votes for Haavisto are likely amongst those waiting to be counted.This news is also delaying Yle’s election prognosis which the public service broadcaster had hoped to broadcast at 20.35.
20.33 For an illustration of the rural-urban divide: In the southern electoral district of Uusimaa/Nyland, the results are so far: Niinistö on top 45,9%, but Haavisto clear second on 17,1 with Väryrynen only on 9,3. But in rural Lapland, Niinistö has only 23,6% of the votes, Väryrynen actually comes first with a massive 43,8 of votes, whilst Haavisto has 9,5%. NB: Neither electoral district has concluded counting.
20.25 The Ministry of Justice’s results service is also available in English here.
20.23 Professor Göran Djupsund notes on Finlands Svenska Televisions results programme that the rural areas are quickest at counting their votes, which are Väyrynen strongholds. Pekka Haavisto’s support is likely to increase when results from the largest towns begin to be counted, particularly the capital region where the Greens have the strongest level of support traditionally.
20.18 Social Democrats’ candidate Paavo Lipponen says he’s disappointed with the result. Said he wanted to be in the second round as a counterweight to Niinistö and now the second round won’t be very interesting. He can’t say at this stage why he has not done better.
20.17 Timo Soini, the party leader and True Finns presidential candidate, admits he will not make the second round. But, he will not say who he will back in the second round, saying that he needs to see who will be in it first.
20.08 Sauli Niinistö thanking his campaign workers and looking forward to a good evening at his election night party.
20.05 Very much between Väyrynen and Haavisto in the battle for second place, with everything to play for between the two. Pekka Haavisto is in position two in bilingual municipalities.
20.02 40,2% for Niinistö of the National Coalition party in the advanced voting, 17,6% for Centre’s Väyrynen, Green’s Haavisto 14,8%, True Finns’ Soini 9,6%, Social Democrat’s Lipponen 7,3%, Left Alliance’s Ahrinmäki 5,7%, Christian Democrats’ Sari Essayah 2,6%, Swedish People’s Party Eva Biaudet 2,5%
20.00 Polling stations have closed. Results of advanced voting are being announced now…
19.59 Will the advanced voting results show a true picture of the final result? Around as many as a quarter of voters have stated they didn’t know who they were going to vote for in opinion polls before election day. Perhaps a lot of movement has happened in opinion since the last advanced votes were cast on Tuesday and those people who have voted today.
19.55 Sauli Niinistö’s campaign are obviously very confident of their victory: they’re holding their election night party at Hotelli Presidentti, “Hotel President”, in central Helsinki.
19.50 The newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet is reporting strong voting after lunch at polling stations in the capital region. Polling stations close in ten minutes at 20.00, after which the results of advanced voting (which have been counted already) will be announced. A reminded, that in a presidential election system, a candidate needs to win more than half of the votes in order to win in the first round. This has never happened since direct voting for the president was introduced in 1994. Should no candidate receive more than half the votes, a second round of voting will be held on 5 February between the two candidates who score the highest number of votes in this first round.
19.28 Whilst it would take an absolutely massive upset for anyone other than Sauli Niinistö to win this first round (and eventually the presidency), what is also certain is that the strong showing for Paavo Väyrynen will have aided his position within his party. Some in the Centre party had not be all to enthusiastic when it had emerged that he would be their candidate, including it is rumoured party leader Mari Kiviniemi. They feared Väyrynen was all too old fashioned and a bit of a loose canon. Yet, his Eurosceptic message seems to have gone home with voters – at least enough to ensure he will likely finish a strong second or third, something nobody would have predicted a few months back. What will his position be in the future? Could he even challenge the Kiviniemi for the party leadership? It would be a surprise, but don’t rule it out. Quite the come-back for a veteran of the Kekkonen era.
19.12 The Swedish People’s Party candidate Eva Biaudet is also not likely to perform strongly in advanced polling. In many Swedish-speaking areas, it is traditional to vote on the actual voting day (today). These results will only start to be counted at 20.00 when polls close. But, look for a fairly quick result in this election. It does not take a long time to count presidential ballot papers. By 20.35, the Finnish national broadcaster is looking to have its usually reliable forecast out. All the votes will probably be counted by 22.00.
19.07 Whilst many Finns, including me, have voted today on the actual polling day at the polling station nearest our homes, over 1,3 million Finnish citizens (or 32,7% of the electorate) have already cast their votes during the advanced voting period which was between 11-17 January. These votes started to be counted today, already in advance of the close of the polls at 20.00. Their results will be announced as soon as today’s voting ends at 20.00. So, we’ll already have a good idea of how large Sauli Niinistö’s lead is – will he win the presidency already in the first round? We might not have such a good idea of who is going to come second and challenge him in any second round though. The Centre party’s Paavo Väyrynen and the Green’s Pekka Haaviso have, in opinion polls, been neck and neck with around 11-12%. But Väyrynen is likely to perform disproportionately well in advanced voting as the Centre party secures much of its support from the Finnish-speaking countryside, where people tend to disproportionately vote in advance.
19.03 Welcome to this live election results blog. Polling stations in the Finnish presidential election 2012 close in just under one hour at 20.00. All times in this blog are Finnish time. We’re two hours ahead of GMT and one hour ahead of Central European Time.
The Ministry of Justice’s results web service will be updated from 20.00 with all the latest results from around the country, as they are reported. You can access it here.
Presidential election 2012
This blog has been a bit quiet lately, for which I apologise. But tomorrow will see the first round of voting in the Finnish Presidential Election 2012.
Eight candidates have been campaigning to succeed Tarja Halonen, who will retire after completing two terms – the maximum allowed under the constitution. The candidates are:
Sauli Niinistö (National Coaltion party) – the favourite by some margin, for months and months. There has been speculation that Niinistö could win the presidency without the need for a second round of voting (which is held between the two highest polling candidates, if no candidate receives more than half the votes in the first round). However, his lead has been dented through the last month of the campaign and it now looks likely that a second round will be necessary.
Pekka Haavisto (Greens) – has increased his popularity in the last month of the campaign and alongside the Centre party’s candidate, has the best chance of making it through to a second round. Popular predominantly amongst the young and in the capital region.
Paavo Väyrynen (Centre) – somewhat of a relic of the Kekkonen age, Väyrynen can be seen as a rather old school candidate. He’s tried to reinvent himself in this campaign as a more happy, laid back character and is perhaps this election campaign’s biggest surprise. He is now challenging for second place. Popular particularly in the Finnish-speaking countryside.
Timo Soini (True Finns) – the leader of the populist party has not seen his opinion poll prospects reflect his party’s big success in April’s parliamentary election. Many True Finns are set to back Väyrynen. According to Soini, that’s because they want to see Soini continue as party chairman in parliament.
Paavo Lipponen (Social Democratic Party) – a former SDP prime minister who has strongly supported the rights of the Swedish-speaking population. The oldest candidate in the election. His polling figures have been disappointingly low. He will not make the second round. The Social Democratic Party’s thirty year hold on the presidency will come to an end after Halonen leaves office.
Eva Biaudet (Swedish People’s Party) – the minority ombudsman. Has run a positive, upbeat campaign, considered a liberal, she has had trouble uniting SFP party supporters fully behind her in what is after all a largely personality based election. She also has run a campaign with a similar focus to Haavisto, and it’s likely that Finnish-speakers would rather vote for him.
Paavo Ahrinmäki (Left Alliance) – the youngest candidate has not always looked like a willing one. Perhaps he was almost forced to stand as the most prominent profile in the current Left Alliance party.
Sari Essayah (Christian Democrats) – a former athlete, Essayah has run a rather anonymous campaign. Denied in an tv-debate that the situation for Swedish-speakers in Finland has worsened and agreed with Soini that racism is not a problem in the country.
Tomorrow evening, after the polls have closed at 20.00, I will be back with a live election results blog. Will Niinistö win in the first round? Who will come second and challenge him in the second round of voting? Come back tomorrow evening to find out!
Presidential Election 2012
The Ombudsman for Minorities Eva Biaudet has been unveiled as the Swedish People’s Party’s candidate in next January’s presidential elections. Biaudet must receive the endorsement of the party’s conference meeting in October, but this is thought to be a mere formality. She announced her candidacy yesterday at a press conference alongside former SFP presidential candidate Elisabeth Rehn, who made it through to the second round against eventual victor Martti Ahtisaari in the 1994 presidential race. SFP’s previous leaders and other prominent figures from the party were also alongside Biaudet, showing that she has widespread support at least amongst the party’s top. She had been widely tipped as being SFP’s candidate for some time in the media.
Before being minorities ombudsman, Biaudet worked at the OSCE in Vienna on issues surrounding human trafficking. She has previously been a government minister and parliament member in Finland.
Biaudet could prove to reach out across the language divide and pick up Finnish-speaking votes. Whilst I can’t see her repeating the success of Rehn in 1994, she is a liberal figure that may prove popular amongst those disappointed with the current harder debate climate on matters such as immigration bought about largely because of the recent rise of the True Finns party in national politics. She is also looking likely to be the only woman amongst a field of otherwise ageing men in grey suits. She is also untainted by recent national political involvement which could prove to be an advantage, she also has international experience. I personally think that Biaudet is a great candidate in this election. Someone who would provide Finland with a respectable figurehead internationally at this time when our reputation has become somewhat tainted by the populist wave experienced during our parliamentary elections. It is also important that SFP has a candidate in the election. Even if there is little chance of an SFP candidate getting to the second round or elected, the election provides many forums to debate political issues, even those not directly related to the president’s limited powers. SFP needs to be there debating these issues otherwise it risks becoming invisible to the electorate. With a candidate in the election, SFP can now be sure to be able to take part in the coming debates in the run up to the January election.
And let’s not forget, a lot can happen during this autumn and winter. No one would have predicted that Elisabeth Rehn would have made the second round in 1994 at this stage of the campaign. So, let’s not rule anything out just yet.
Pictured: Eva Biaudet (left) and Elisabeth Rehn (right)
Yesterday, exactly two months to the day since the parliamentary election on 17 April, Finland’s government negotiations finally concluded. The moderate conservative Kokoomus party, the Social Democrats, Left Alliance, Greens, Swedish People’s Party, and Christian Democrats finally came to agreement on a government programme. The leader of Kokoomus, Jyrki Katainen, is now set to become Finland’s next Prime Minister.
The new government programme is marked by many compromises. It is a broad coalition of ideologically diverse parties that Katainen has been forced to sow together after the success of the True Finns, and their massive gain in seats, in April’s election.
The Swedish People’s Party (SFP) will get the positions of Defence Minister and Justice Minister. Party chairman Stefan Wallin will fill the defence portfolio, whilst the parliament member from Jakobstad and current chairman of Folktinget (the Swedish Assembly in Finland) Anna-Maja Henriksson will lead the Justice Ministry. She is also a lawyer by education. These are heavy-weight portfolios and give SFP more influence than in the last government. Defence will ensure that Wallin is able to protect the Swedish-speaking Nylands brigad when necessary defence budget cutbacks are announced. Justice also has a role in linguistic policy, in e.g. courts and administrative district reforms. Henriksson’s ministry will also be responsible for the shaping of the reforms of Åland’s autonomy, which is expected to be expanded during this government’s mandate.
SFP has also managed to ensure that much of the action plan of former President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Martti Ahtisaari on how Finland’s bilingual nature will be strengthened is included in the new government’s programme.
Naturally, the most important mission for the new government will be to balance the economy. This is going to mean cut-backs in many areas. It will be interesting to see if this does not lead to conflict between the individual parties as they try to limit the extent of these cut-backs to areas that particularly effect their electorate or the areas covered by their ministries. It could be a bumpy ride, in spite of yesterday’s agreement on a comprehensive government programme.
Pictured: Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP), Finland’s incoming Justice Minister
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?
23.52 100% of votes are counted in the election for Finland’s 200-seat parliament.
Kokoomus, the National Coalition party (moderate conservative) 20,4%, 44 seats
Social Democratic Party 19,1%, 42 seats
True Finns 19,0%, 39 seats
Centre 15,8%, 35 seats
Left Alliance 8,1%, 14 seats
Greens 7,2%, 10 seats
Swedish People’s Party 4,3%, 9 seats
Christian Democrats 4,0%, 6 seats
Other (Åland’s parliament member), 1 seat
Turnout was 70,4%.
- The big news of the night is that the True Finns have performed at the top end of expectations, winning over 19% of votes. A record-breaking 15 percent increase on their performance in the last election. Timo Soini’s populists will certainly be invited to government formation negotiations. Will they even be in government?
- The conservative National Coalition Kokoomus are the largest party in parliament for the first time in history. Party chair Jyrki Katainen is likely to be Finland’s new prime minister.
- The Social Democratic Party has come second. Will it enter government together with Kokoomus?
- The Centre Party have had a terrible election. The party of Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi have lost over seven percent of the electoral share compared to 2007.
- The Swedish People’s Party has had a good night. In an election with a high turnout, something that usually negatively effects SFP, the party has managed to retain all of its mandates. Apart from the True Finns, SFP is the only party not to have lost seats in parliament.
That is the end of this live blog, thank you for reading it. You can find full results in English from the Ministry of Justice’s results service here.
23.49 Counting in Nyland/Uusimaa electoral district is complete, the largest and last district to finalise counting. Timo Soini, chair of True Finns, beats Alexander Stubb (Kokoomus) by around 2000 votes to be the vote king in Nyland (and the entire country). SFP manages to hold onto its three mandates – the sitting SFP parliamentarians have been returned.
23.44 It looks like Astrid Thors will take SFP’s seat in Helsingfors/Helsinki. Interviewed on Yle, she says that the other government parties have acted wrongly in their lack of meeting populist immigration critics head-on. Thors has had to bear the brunt of much populist hatred due to her position as Migration Minister. She reminds us that there are 80% of the country who do not want to have the True Finns politics.
23.23 Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb tops Kokoomus’ candidates in Nyland/Uusimaa, beating his party chairman and leading candidate for Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.
23.19 Only 100 votes between Astrid Thors and Jörn Donner in the battle for SFP’s mandate in the capital city. Too close to call.
23.03 Is this the sixth or seventh election in a row that the Centre party has gone backwards in support asks Professor Göran Djupsund in Yle’s coverage.
22.59 Can the True Finns really sit in government together with Kokoomus? True Finns made a big issue of EU support to Portugal in their campaign. They were strongly against giving Finnish tax-payers money to another country that “had not taken care of its economy”. Kokoomus’ chairman, current Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen, has advocated Finnish support for the EU crisis package to member states in economic trouble. Can either party really make the U-turn required for them to be able to govern together?
22.55 A cartoon in Vasabladet shows an SFP ladybird (the party’s logo) thanking the True Finns and the Finnishness Association for the help in the election campaign. It seems that the strong anti-Swedish feeling that the True Finns have blown up has motivated Swedish-speakers to vote for SFP.
22.52 SFP’s chairman Stefan Wallin is addressing his party’s election night party. He notes that SFP, together with True Finns, is the only party to not have lost any seats in parliament. This is a good result for SFP. Turnout is higher than normal in the country as a whole, normally bad news for SFP. Swedish-speakers tend to be more active voters, but this advantage has been rubbed out in this poll – but SFP have still manage to hold all their seats.
22.44 Voting is finished in Vasa electoral district. SFP retains 4 seats. Centre big losers in this area. Lars-Erik Gästgivars is SFP’s new member of parliament in Vasa (Håkan Nordman is retiring from parliament).
22.40 The True Finns chairman Timo Soini has arrived to massive cheering at his party’s election party. He says they’ve made political history.
Timo Soini responds to a question on whether he will be in government by answering that he will be taking a sauna with Jyrki Katainen. He hopes to sit in government. Yle points out that this election has been bad for gender equality. The True Finns are a very male-dominated party and are taking around 40 seats.
22.13 Maria Wetterstand, joint leader of Sweden’s Green party, is being interviewed on Yle. She is married to Finnish Green MP Ville Niinistö. She says that she thinks Finland has handled the True Finns very badly. According to Wetterstand, the other parties should acted cowardly. Only the Greens and SFp have spoken clearly against True Finns, the others have adopted much of their immigrant-critical populist rhetoric.
22.08 Swedish People’s Party will almost certainly win four seats in the Vasa electoral district. Ulla-Maj Wideroos of SFP says that it can be so that the True Finns and SFP are the only victors in this election. She notes that the True Finns are very long from SFP’s values and that Timo Soini’s values don’t belong in her idea of what Finland is. If True Finns enter government, will this mean SFP will leave government after decades?
22.07 81% of the votes are now counted. Kokoomus in lead with 20%, True Finns 19,4%, SDP 19%, Centre 15,9%, Left Alliance 8,2%, Greens 7,2%, SFP 4,3%, Christian Democrats 4,1%, Pirate Party 0,5%, Others 1,5%
22.03 A quick flick of the channels from Finnish television to Swedish Television (SVT) for the start of the main evening news bulletin in our western neighbour. The populist True Finns success is the main story. Nearly 20% of the votes to True Finns. This is not a good day for Finland’s international reputation. The Swedish media is finding it hard to understand how the True Finns can do so well in a country with so few immigrants.
21.58 First time turnout has been above 70% since 1995. The True Finns have at least increased interest in the democratic process.
21.48 If the True Finns are this election’s big winners, the Centre party and the Greens must be the big losers. Where have Green voters turned to? Whilst it’s feasible that many Centre voters have turned to the True Finns, it seems unlikely that liberal Green party voters would choose Timo Soini’s party. Indeed, the Greens were the only party to say they would not govern together with the True Finns. Could they voters have turned to the SDP?
21.46 Åland is the first electoral district to complete its counting in full. Not surprising as it is the smallest and interest in voting in the election is low there. The sole member from Åland Elisabeth Nauclér has been reelected.
21.33 Yle’s analyst notes that should Kokoomus, True Finns and SDP (who are all predicted to gain almost the same number of seats in parliament) form a government they’d have a strong majority without needing any smaller parties. Questionable whether smaller parties such as the Greens and SFP would want to dirty their hands with governing alongside Timo Soini’s populists.
21.28 Finnish radio and tv Yle’s prognosis has just been released.
True Finns and Kokoomus tie for first place with 19,8 percent of the vote each! SDP in third with 18,5. Prime minister’s Centre party 16,4 percent and practically certain to be in opposition. Left Alliance 7,9, Greens 7,3, SFP 4,2, Christian Democrats 4,0. A MAJOR upset. In the past, Yle’s prediction have been very accurate. Let’s hope it is not this time. It looks like True Finns will be in government if this is true. A horrendous blow for Finland’s reputation.
21.19 Prime Minister Kiviniemi has just told television that Centre is likely to go into opposition. When asked if it would be her first choice to go into opposition so that the party could lick its wounds, she seemed to agree it would be the best course of action. Could we see a Kokoomus-SDP government?
21.07 Just now, it looks like the Swedish People’s Party (SFP) may win an extra seat – if this occurred SFP would be the only party other than the True Finns to go forward in this election.
21.06 Four large parties of almost the same size. A very unusual situation in politics when one thinks of other countries.
21.05 Caution on the results to date. Many, many advanced votes in the country’s biggest electoral district, Nyland/Uusimaa, are not even counted yet. Likely to be many votes for Kokoomus amongst these. They are strong in Nyland.
21.00 47% of votes counted. There’s only 0,4 % (!) between the four largest parties!
20.55 Situation just now (percent) Kokoomus (conservatives) 19,2, SDP 19,0, True Finns 18,7, Centre 18,5, Left Alliance 8,2, Greens 6,0, Christian Democrats 4,3, Swedish People’s Party 4,2
20.29 Europe and Migration Minister Astrid Thors is currently around 300 votes ahead of fellow SFP candidate Jörn Donner in Helsingfors/Helsinki electoral district. SFP in a terrible position in Vasa electoral district, as things are now, they’d lose 2 seats in Österbotten, but they may be many votes cast today yet to be counted.
20.17 True Finns leader Timo Soini is the current “vote king”, having the highest number of individual votes. The extreme right winger Jussi Hallo-aho is in 5th place, also a True Finn.
20.12 Centre party’s chair, prime minister Mari Kiviniemi has just told YLE’s Swedish-tv channel that if this is the final result, Centre will go into opposition! A slip of the tongue in a second language?
20.10 Finland’s likely next prime minister, Kokoomus leader Jyrki Katainen speaking to TV. You can see first results on the caption.
20.03 The Finnish people have voted, polling stations are closed. Advanced voting results come in. Looks like a disaster for the Centre party with 17,3%, down 5,8%. They usually do will in advanced voting. The True Finns have 18,6% of the vote in advanced voting, third place. As expected, Kokoomus are in the lead with 20.2%, but the SDP are close behind on 19,5%. SFP are behind slightly over 1 per cent on the last election, but Swedish-speakings generally vote on the election day, and those results will come in as they are counted. ALL parties, except the True Finns, are behind on the last election.
19.52 Whilst advanced voting results will come in at 20.00, after poll’s close, we will have to wait until around 21.00 for a firm idea of how the next parliament will look. At that time, the Finnish national broadcaster Yle will release its first election prognosis. This is usually a highly reliable guide to the final result.
19.45 Just fifteen minutes until polling stations close and those first results are announced. Voting is expected to have been high today. The weather was good and people are invigorated by what was an exciting campaign. Hopefully turn out will pass 70% this time. The last two elections have seen shamefully low turnouts: only 67,9% of the electorate voted in 2007. By way of comparison, almost 85% of Swedes voted in their latest parliamentary election in September.
19.01 The polls close in just under one hour. Counting of votes cast in advance has already started and the results of advanced voting will be released immediately after the polls close at 20.00. Some news reports earlier in the day suggested that it might not be possible to count them all in time as there are so many advanced votes to count. Over 30% of the electorate chose to vote in advance this year. Residents of rural municipalities are usually those that cast their vote in advance in greatest numbers, so expect the first results to put the Centre party in the lead. The Centre party, with its roots in the agrarian movement, has its strongholds in the more sparsely populated countryside. Swedish-speaking Finns often leave voting to the day itself, so expect a relatively poor showing for the Swedish People’s Party (SFP) amongst the first returns. The first results should show if the opinion polls are right on the True Finns – will they emerge with more than 15% of the vote?
18.50 Welcome to this live blog of Finland’s 2011 parliamentary election. I obviously can’t provide a comprehensive results service, but I’ll be providing some snippets of what’s happening as the results come in. Naturally, with a focus on Swedish-speaking Finland. All times are Finnish time, we’re three hours ahead of GMT – and one hour ahead of central Europe.
The Justice Ministry’s election results service can be found online here. It will be updated with the latest results as they come in from municipalities and electoral districts across the country.
Kokoomus’ party chairman and finance minister Jyrki Katainen, likely to be Finland’s next Prime Minister if the opinion polls are correct.
Saturday is the final day of campaigning for the political parties and candidates contesting this year’s parliamentary election. Voting will take place tomorrow between 9.00 – 20.00 at polling stations across the country. Although, over 30 percent of the electorate have already voted during the advanced voting period. On election day, voting must be done at the polling station nearest one’s home.
The rise of the True Finns
This campaign has been in many ways the most interesting and exciting for many years. Sadly, largely for unfortunate reasons. It has seen the emergence of the populist nationalist True Finns party of Timo Soini. The party is anti-immigrant and anti-Swedish language. It is against the European Union and the euro, a populist stance to take and an easy vote-winner at a time in which EU financial support is required by several member states in economic crisis. During the course of the last few months, opinion polls have showed that Soini’s gang could take as much as 18-20% of the vote, although they have fallen back slightly in recent days. The True Finns will likely come out of tomorrow’s poll nearly as large as the three big parties, Centre, the national coalition Kokoomus, and the Social Democrats. For a party that won only 4% in the last election in 2007, this must be considered a great success. Sadly, Soini’s True Finns will be the big winners tomorrow. But, I am sceptical as to whether all those voting for the True Finns are actually racists. I suspect many will cast their vote for the True Finns as a mark of mistrust against the established political movements, a protest vote. We have seen party election finance scandals in most of the traditional parties during the last four years. Many who have said they will vote True Finns when asked by opinion pollsters may actually change their mind when faced with the list of candidates at the polling booth. Timo Soini is almost the sole known voice of the party, and he can’t stand in every constituency. Whilst he may even top the poll in the Uusimaa (Nyland) electoral district, voters in other parts of the country will be face with a True Finns candidate list of unknowns. They may just decide to vote for someone they know from another party. Should the True Finns win big, will they enter government? I see it as unlikely. Their beliefs are simply too different from the other likely government parties. Sure, we’ve had coalitions between the conservatives of Kokoomus and Social Democrats before – but they both agreed on fundamental issues such as our European Union membership. The True Finns do not. And, Soini may have a battle on his hands to avoid his party splitting or falling apart during the next parliament. Already there are tensions between the two main blocs within the party; hard-right nationalist members of the racist Suomen Sisu organisation and those members of the former Rural Party. One must also remember that most of the True Finns candidates have little to no political experience. They may find parliament rather boring once they get there.
Turnout in this election is likely to be higher than in the last two due to the less predictable nature of the outcome. The Swedish People’s Party (SFP) has traditionally benefited from a lower turnout, as Swedish-speaking Finns vote in disproportionately higher numbers. This advantage may be rubbed out this time. Although, on the other hand, perhaps even more Swedish-speakers will vote – and vote for SFP rather than other parties – because of the threat of the anti-Swedish True Finns and because of the recently worsened language climate in general.
In the Nyland (Uusimaa) electoral district, SFP should be able to hold onto its three mandates. But, they may well change hands. They party will have difficulty increasing its presence in an electoral district that has seen ever increasing immigration from the Finnish Finland. Kokoomus’ charismatic foreign minister Alexander Stubb may also win a significant number of Swedish-speakers’ votes. He has been campaigning also in Swedish with full page advertisements in Hufvudstadsbladet. The SDP will be hoping that at least Maarit Feldt-Ranta wins reelection, she is likely to do so. This is the country’s largest electoral district, and Timo Soini is on the True Finns’ list. It will be interesting to see whether he manages to top the poll in the district. He faces a strong challenge from the likes of Jyrki Katainen (leader of Kokoomus) and Stubb. Indeed, it will also be interesting to see if the popular Stubb manages to gain more votes than his party chairman.
In Helsingfors (Helsinki), SFP will hold onto its existing seat. It’s unlikely to increase to two mandates. It is possible that Jörn Donner will win more votes than current Europe and Migration Minister Astrid Thors and thus push her out of the next parliament. Donner is likely to appeal also to Finnish-speaking voters in the capital. However, Thors – who has been widely attacked by anti-immigration populists in many parties – may also win support from Finnish-speaking liberals who are appalled at the current populist tone the immigration debate. The SDP’s Jacob Söderman is retiring from parliament and his Swedish-speaking voters will be up for grabs.
In Egentliga Finland (Varsinais-Suomi, Finland Proper), SFP leader Stefan Wallin will almost certainly hold onto his seat.
In Vasa electoral district, SFP will be looking to hold onto its four mandates. It almost certainly shall. However, the popular Vasa politician Håkan Nordman is retiring and he commanded many votes also from Finnish-speakers in his hometown. So, there are lots of votes ‘going spare’ to be won. The Christian Democrats’ Bjarne Kallis is also retiring, and it’s likely that many of his Swedish-speaking voters will abandon the Christian Democrats for another party. SFP may benefit from this. The Swedish-speaking arm of the Social Democrats (FSD) has also campaigned hard in this election. They will be hoping that their chairman, Steven Frostdahl, will win a seat. He may well do. The Social Democrat vote will be helped in the Vasa electoral district by the fact that party chair Jutta Urpilainen is on the candidate list in the region. The Centre party has in recent years tried to establish a Swedish-speaking district, however it has been largely discredited by the erratic actions of its chairman Peter Albäck. Centre is unlikely to pick up more than a handful of votes from Swedish-speaking residents of Österbotten.
SFP is also, for the first time, standing candidates in Lappland and Uleåborg (Oulu). The chairman of the Sami Assembly is standing on the SFP list in Lappland. It will be interesting to see how many votes he manages to gather. It is however extremely unlikely that SFP will win a seat in either district. The party is merely preparing to go national in advance of the new election law coming into force, which is likely to have a 3% minimum threshold for parliamentary representation. As the threshold will be based on the nationwide share of the vote, every vote will be important for smaller parties in the future.
Meanwhile on Åland, the election is likely to be met with weak interest and a low voter turnout. Åland has its own political parties and most decisions are taken locally in this autonomous province. People there will be more interested in elections for Åland’s own parliament later this year. The sitting candidate, Elisabeth Nauclér, who represents the non-socialist parties on Åland, should easily win reelection. She sits together with SFP members in parliament as part of the so-called Swedish Parliamentary Group.
Come back tomorrow from 20.00 Finnish time (17.00 GMT), when I hope to provide a live blog of the results.