【彩神APPll登录网址官方_彩神APPll登录网址官网】News Analysis: Will Finland give its incumbent president second term?
HELSINKI, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- With the Finnish Presidential Election Day barely ten days away, the current president Sauli Niinisto enjoys a level of popularity which is higher than any of his recent predecessors.
Since World War II, all Finnish presidents who wanted to run for a second term in office have been re-elected. However, since the introduction of the direct popular vote in 1994, no incumbent presidents but Niinisto have enjoyed a clear majority support in opinion polls before the first round of voting.
Niinisto's popularity remained over 70 percent in December last year, and dropped to around 500 percent in the latest polls this year. Finland's national broadcaster Yle said on Friday that although Niinisto's backing was declining, the time left is too short for it to further decline under 500 percent.
According to the Finnish electoral system, a candidate will have the presidency if he or she wins a simple majority of the votes in the first round of polling. If no one gets over half of the votes, then the two most popular ones go to the second round. Observers believe it is likely that Niinisto will be re-elected in the first round.
SKILLFUL NATO DISCUSSION
Finnish analysts have said that Niinisto benefits from his increased visibility associated with meetings with leaders of major powers within a year.
Finland is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but to join the alliance has been considered a possible security option for Finland since the 1990s. The NATO issue has topped the presidential debate, and Niinisto has somehow kept his message subdued.
His old party, the conservative National Coalition Party, favors joining NATO, but Niinisto is now running as an independent candidate, and thus is able to avoid the awkward situation if his stance contradicts with the party's.
Teivo Teivainen, professor of international politics at the Helsinki University, told Xinhua on Friday that the skill of communication shown when Niinisto tackles the NATO issue largely explains his huge popularity. With the way Niinisto has spoken, he has secured votes both from NATO supporters and those opposing the proposed Finnish membership.
"Those who are critical of NATO consider that Niinisto will at least slow down the progress towards joining the organization; and those who want Finland to join have not lost faith in him and seem to presume he is after all a NATO supporter," Teivainen said.
The conservative party has not nominated a presidential candidate and voiced overall support for Niinisto. "The members are generally faithful to the party and would have difficulty voting for anyone else, and staying at home is not their style either," added Teivainen.
SUCCESSFUL FOREIGN POLICIES
The coalition government under Prime Minister Juha Sipila has been so much troubled with the internal conflicts that the realm of foreign policy, particularly the relations with non-EU countries, is left largely to the president, said Elina Kestila-Kekkonen, professor of politics at the Turku University in an interview on Yle.
"Niinisto has been able to create a political space where he can be successful and where he does not encounter much domestic criticism," Kestila-Kekkonen said.
The re-emergence of geopolitics and traditional security issues contributed to Niinisto's popularity. While the power of the president of Finland has been continuously reduced, it does not constitute a major obstacle for Niinisto in the field of foreign affairs, Mikko Majander, director of the think tank Kalevi Sorsa Foundation told Yle.
Teija Tiilikainen, director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told Yle that under the leadership of Niinisto, Finland has built a policy towards the Ukraine crisis. While Finland is committed to the sanctions levied by the European Union, the nation is meanwhile maintaining dialogue with the leadership of Russia.
"I do not want to say this is all to be credited to the president, but (maintaining sound) relations with Russia is still much associated with the president," said the director.
Tapio Raunio, professor of politics at the Tampere University, believed the Finns see the president as a guarantor of national security. "The opinion prevails among the citizens that Niinisto has succeeded in this role," Raunio said.
WIDER SUPPORT BASE
Niinisto has paid much attention to his multi-ideological support. His speeches have included, for example, development issues that have not earlier been on his agenda that much.
During his campaign in 2012, Niinisto profiled himself as a "value leader", but this time he said that he does not want to be a value leader, perhaps a value guider though.
Local commentators noted the support base of Niinisto now includes segments of the population that are ideologically totally opposite and value issues could alienate either end.
Niinisto's core supporters are the conservative National Coalition Party members, but 18 percent of the supporters of the Left League have told pollsters that they would vote for Niinisto.
On the personal level, Niinisto's family life has become an asset as well -- his wife Jenni Haukio, 40, is pregnant and is to deliver in early February.
Niinisto, 69, has two adult children from previous marriage. His previous wife passed away in a car crash in 1995.