That’s nothing compared to the US election, which after almost a year into the Republican nomination process, is just now building up a good head of steam, with another seven months of grandstanding, self-serving rhetoric, and over-inflated egos to go.
|President-elect Sauli Niinistö|
Photo by Soppakanuuna
Another amazing feature of Finnish elections is how fast the votes are counted, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising in a country of just over 4.4 million voters. Still, considering that in America you often hear the election results only the morning after (or in a certain famous case back in 2000, a full month later), it’s amazing how fast it all gets done here.
Forty-five minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. on Election Day two Sundays ago the outcome was clear. The entire tally had been completed in a little over two hours, and well before bedtime the official results were announced, both candidates interviewed on TV, and the whole thing wrapped up. And keep in mind, these are paper ballots they’re counting. By hand. Nothing electronic.
Still, perhaps the most glaring difference between elections here and in the US is the money. The Helsingin Sanomat reported that Sauli Niinistö’s campaign spent something like 1.2 million euros ($1.6 million) to win the contest. That’s considerably more than the 710,000 euros that Pekka Haavisto had at his disposal, even after an almost 3-fold boost in donations in the last two weeks of the race, including 80,000 euros raked in by a one-time comeback concert put on by the hugely popular band “Ultra Bra”.
|Pekka Haavisto, Green Party candidate|
Photo by Soppakauuna
This Finnish presidential race, though dull by US standards, was more electrifying than recent races. Niinistö’s win with nearly 63% of the vote would be seen as a landslide in the US, where margins are often very narrow. But in Finland, voters have almost always rewarded career politicians, like Niinistö, who’ve spent decades paying their dues within one of the mainstream parties. Over the years, Niinistö has held various high positions in government, almost won the presidency when he ran six years ago, and continues to be popular, so he probably seemed like the most obvious choice for many people.
Against that background, the fact that Haavisto inspired enough support to force Niinistö into a second round of voting is impressive enough. The surge in Haavisto’s funding surely helped his campaign, as well as the use of social media by his supporters, such as a flash-mob video posted on Youtube.
For a first-time candidate from a minor party, and one who’s openly gay (which even in Finland might turn some voters off), Haavisto’s 37% share of the final vote is totally respectable. That doesn’t mean it’s any less of a disappointment for his supporters, which seemed to have included most people I know (my neighborhood went 40% for Haavisto). My daughter said she and all her friends would have voted for him if they had been old enough, which should give Haavisto some solace. Six years from now, with the younger generation coming of age, the outcome might be very different.