Outgoing Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) reacted at a press conference organised at the Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on 5 April 2023. Haavisto is presently the favourite to succeed President Sauli Niinistö in the Presidential Palace in January 2024, reveals a poll by YLE. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)


OUTGOING Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) is the public favourite to become president with roughly eight months to go until the presidential elections held in January 2024, indicates a poll commissioned by YLE.

YLE on Tuesday reported that Haavisto was the choice of 28 per cent of poll respondents when they were asked to choose only one name from a list of 38 potential candidates.

With President Sauli Niinistö set to complete is second six-year term in office, Finland will elect a new president early next year, on 28 January.

Fifteen per cent of respondents stated their preference for Olli Rehn (Centre), the Governor of the Bank of Finland, and 13 per cent for Mika Aaltola, the director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Each of the three most popular choices saw his popularity increase from the previous presidential poll, Haavisto by three points, Rehn by one and Aaltola by two.

Jussi Halla-aho, a former chairperson of the Finns Party, ex-Prime Minister Alexander Stubb (NCP) and caretaker Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) all contrastively saw their popularity drop by a percentage point, the first to six per cent and the latter two to five per cent.

“Right now it’s looking like it’ll be a three-horse race,” Jari Pajunen, the research director of Taloustutkimus, stated to YLE. “Others will of course also stand a chance as we get more information on the candidate nominations.”

Taloustutkimus interviewed 1,656 people for the poll between 4 and 9 May.

Pajunen estimated that anyone who wants to have a significant impact on the race should be polling at around five per cent at this stage.

Some of the notable potential candidates below the threshold are ex-Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre), outgoing Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Centre), European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen (SDP) and outgoing Minister of Education Li Andersson (LA).

Public preferences appear to differ based on variable such as age, gender and place of residence, according to YLE. Whereas Haavisto draws support particularly from people living in larger cities, the highly educated and women, Rehn is popular especially among 65–79-year-old men and people living in smaller cities. Aaltola, meanwhile, is popular among over 50-year-olds and people with vocational qualifications.

“The supporter profile for the three most popular choices differs quite a bit in this sense,” summed up Pajunen.

Young respondents were supportive also of Andersson and Halla-aho. “Andersson is the favourite for young people. Even though her overall popularity is low, she gets a lot of support from under 35-year-olds. Also Halla-aho has a lot of young backers,” he said.

Halla-aho drew his support predominantly from male respondents, with 83 per cent of his support coming from men and 17 per cent from women. Both Haavisto and Andersson contrastively drew over 60 per cent of their support from women.

The results reflect the fact that parties have yet to announce their candidates for the presidential elections, with the sole exception of Movement Now’s Harry Harkimo. Pajunen told YLE that the situation is likely to even out as the elections draw closer, with voters flocking behind the nominations of their favourite party.

When respondents were asked to name their five top choices, Haavisto received support from 53 per cent, Rehn from 44 per cent and Aaltola from 42 per cent of respondents. The top three were followed by Stubb (26%), Marin (25%), Vanhanen (22%), Halla-aho (17%) and Kaikkonen (17%).

Aleksi Teivainen – HT