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Nils Torvalds of the Swedish People’s Party remains the only presidential candidate to voice his support for applying for Nato membership.
Nils Torvalds of the Swedish People’s Party remains the only presidential candidate to voice his support for applying for Nato membership.

 

Most Finns would prefer if the candidates in the upcoming presidential elections had a clear-cut stance on whether or not Finland should apply for membership in Nato.

Alma Media on Wednesday reported that 53 per cent of respondents to its survey agreed with the statement that the candidates should be explicitly either for or against the membership. A quarter of respondents disagreed with the statement, while a fifth were unable or unwilling to comment on the statement.

Markku Jokisipilä, the director of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies at the University of Turku, says the survey results are not particularly surprising in light of the degree of ambiguity associated with the debate on the defence alliance in Finland.

“The differences between the stances in the debate are sometimes so nuanced and subtle that if a citizen doesn’t have a particular preoccupation with foreign and security policy, it may be difficult to follow the debate,” he explains.

Matti Pesu, a visiting research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, believes the candidates have relatively clear-cut stances on Nato.

“Maybe the campaigns and debates have yet to receive enough publicity,” he analyses.

Pesu also suggests that voters have a right to demand more definitive answers from the candidates as the president leads foreign policy making in co-operation with the government.

Finland’s possible membership in the defence alliance came to the fore in the run-up to the elections after Nils Torvalds, the candidate of the Swedish People’s Party, declared that he is supportive of the idea of joining Nato.

He is the only candidate who has openly voiced his support for the membership: Merja Kyllönen (Left Alliance) and Laura Huhtasaari (PS) have expressed their unequivocal opposition to the membership, while Matti Vanhanen (Centre), Tuula Haatainen (SDP) and Pekka Haavisto (Greens) have all voiced their reservations about it.

The most ambiguous stance is perhaps that of President Sauli Niinistö, who has repeatedly underlined that a decision on whether to join the defence alliance will depend on the circumstances.

“The current government has opened the possibility for applying for the membership, and the possibility as such is an instrument of security policy making,” he phrased in his reply on the voter guidance pages of Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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