When you go to a family wedding, your mother and sisters will look very different and a little strange with too much make-up, funny hairstyles, silly hats, and awful dresses…
… and so it is with the our leading contenders for the presidential election here in Finland at the end of January. Many of the nine candidates have been dressed up to look like solid, nice people who are polite and avoid saying anything that might be construed as wrong or a touch controversial…
However, looking at the polls only two candidates are worth a final examination because their popularity is well above the other seven. One is called Mr. Stubb, the other is Mr. Haavisto. It is important, therefore, to consider their suitability for the job that involves top-level meetings with the world’s leaders, with a strong emphasis on military security.
Mr. Stubb is a former Conservative Minister who dumped out of politics after it was noted that he did not have an eye for important details and that he was too outspoken for a few of his party’s right-wing members. In the end, he had to go. He then became a professor in an Italian university, quite a step down from his previous career, but since he also enjoys athletic prowess and is a lively speaker of sorts, voters seem to have forgiven him. The Conservative Party and generous support from banker bigwigs have also paved his path with gold, making him into what appears to be a respectable candidate.
… all this makeover unfortunately covers his inability to have survived the most senior heights in politics or in business. One may doubt his ability to handle the daily complex matters of state smoothly and with an experienced eye. However, one may note that several former US presidents also fall into the same category!
His main competitor, Mr. Haavisto, can be seen as a more appropriate candidate. He has an eye for detail, broad experience in foreign affairs and a strong understanding of Climate Change. He holds a senior position within the Green Party, and has held three substantial ministerial positions in various governments over the decades. Furthermore, he is clearly a liberal politician who supports policies that are socially progressive and promote social welfare. This means that he is accustomed to work with other political parties, including the Conservatives, and it appears that his current candidacy for president is also supported by many from the Social Democratic Party.
As a person, he is both serious and soft-spoken, and unlike Mr. Stubb, he is not prone to cracking jokes. Some people on the right of the political spectrum are offended that he is openly gay, but this is tempered by the fact that his long-time partner from Ecuador is seen in a positive light because of his open candour, and the fact that he has learnt reasonably good Finnish!
However, comparing two candidates is often a fruitless exercise because it often seems like voters never seem to understand that “you get what you vote for”. Too many have secured posts based on what spin doctors (normally called media consultants) and social media have created with smoke and mirrors. Recent examples abound of fools being appointed like Boris Johnson, Teresa May, Liz Truss, and Rishi Sunak in Brexit UK! You will also recall what has happened in Italy, France, and Germany, where ineffective leaders have won a place on the throne only to be seen as hapless bosses who make poor or wrong decisions that lead or should lead to swift dethronement.
Finland is too small for people like this to be elected president, especially at the present time when matters of state require thoughtful long term strategic policies to keep us safe. The threats from military despots, state-run cyber criminals, and climate change are threats that are “true and existential”. This current state of affairs requires serious and conscientious men and women who have gained the necessary experience that comes with age and solid political networks.