SUNDAY EVENING 22:45 Presidential Election - Sauli Niinistö and Pekka Haavisto go through to run-off in February; disappointed Paavo Väyrynen left in third as Finns Party and Social Democrat candidates snubbed by voters
Election turnout 72.7%; Haavisto scores appreciably more on election day than in advance voting
Pekka Haavisto and Paavo Väyrynen
With all the votes counted in the first round of Presidential Elections on Sunday, no candidate achieved the 50% support required for automatic election, but advance favourite Sauli Niinistö (National Coalition Party, 37.0%) and recent campaign phenomenon Pekka Haavisto (Greens, 18.8%) will take part in a second round run-off next month to determine who succeeds Tarja Halonen in the post of President of the Republic.
Haavisto narrowly won the widely-anticipated race for second place against Paavo Väyrynen of the Centre Party, while both Timo Soini of the Finns Party and Paavo Lipponen of the Social Democrats polled well below their respective parties' showings at the 2011 Parliamentary Elections.
Pekka Haavisto quite obviously benefited from a late surge - his share of the votes cast on Sunday was 22.3%, whereas only 14.6% of advance voters had backed him.
Paavo Väyrynen and nearly all the other candidates saw a decline in their support between the advance voting and election day.
In Helsinki, Haavisto was in fact the most popular candidate on election day itself, beating Niinistö 39.0% to 33.9% in what became very much a two-horse race.
Whilst the time for analysis of the voting patterns is still ahead, two clear signs are that Pekka Haavisto gathered votes (particularly among the young) from well beyond his Green League background and that the choice of a eurosceptic candidate by the Centre Party clearly eroded support for the Finns Party (triumphant in the Parliamentary Elections just under a year ago, but with their vote now halved).
Equally, former Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament Paavo Lipponen's obvious statesmanlike qualities counted for naught as many felt he was too old for the task, and Sauli Niinistö's support held up well in spite of his exposed position as the front-runner in this race from the very second that he announced he would run again. Niinistö was the "defeated finalist" in 2006 when Halonen won her second term.
The result means an end to a sequence of Finnish Social Democrat presidents dating back to Mauno Koivisto in 1982.
Before Koivisto's election, the office had been held for a quarter of a century by Urho Kekkonen, originally of the Agrarian League, the precursor of today's Centre Party.
How the votes of the supporters of those six candidates no longer in the fray will be distributed in a couple of weeks' time will be interesting indeed.
The Finns Party supporters for one will have a difficult choice between two candidates who are considerably more openly "multicultural" and "pro-European" than the official Finns Party line.
Much the same is true of the Centre Party supporters, for the party has taken a more overtly eurosceptic stance since it went into opposition last year.
One consideration among backers of both these opposition camps might be a reluctance to further strengthen the hand of the National Coalition Party, which is already the largest in Parliament and the party of Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.
Supporters of the Left Alliance and some Social Democrats may find it easier to throw their weight behind Haavisto than the moderate conservative Niinistö, even though Niinistö and Lipponen are to some extent cut from the same cloth, whilst hardline Christian Democrats are likely to turn the other way, not least because Pekka Haavisto is openly gay and in a registered partnership.
There may also be a gender split - early indications were that Haavisto did particularly well with female voters in the first round.
Simple personal preferences could come into play - Niinistö has been seen by some as a prickly customer, for example during his tenure as Speaker of Parliament.
Tactical voting counted for a fair bit in this election.
This was seen for instance in people giving their support to Haavisto in order to dent the chances of either Väyrynen (seen as an icy blast from Finland's past) or Soini (seen as overly nationalist and divisive by those who felt a sense of collective embarrassment at the Finns Party's massive victory in the Parliamentary Elections of 2011) from progressing, but it also apparently included some people from the parties of the Left sitting on their hands and staying at home.
The second round may well be a very different matter.
The distribution of votes was as follows:
Sauli Niinistö (National Coalition Party) 37.0% - 1,131,126 votes
Pekka Haavisto (Greens) 18.8% - 573,871 votes
Paavo Väyrynen (Centre Party) 17.5% - 536,731 votes
Timo Soini (Finns Party) 9.4% - 287,405 votes
Paavo Lipponen (Social Democrats) 6.7% - 205,020 votes
Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance) 5.5% - 167,358 votes
Eva Biaudet (Swedish People's Party) 2.7% - 82,581 votes
Sari Essayah (Christian Democrats) 2.5% - 75,755 votes.
Turnout was 72.7%, rather lower than hoped, with one reason given being tactical voting and another being the large lead held in recent polls by Niinistö. In 2006, the voter percentage at this stage was 73.9%.
The second round of voting will take place on February 5th, with advance voting in Finland from 25.1-31.1., and abroad from 25.1-28.1.2012.
In other words, it all starts again on Wednesday.
More on this subject:
SUNDAY EVENING 21:30 Presidential Election - As the last votes are counted, Sauli Niinistö leads from Pekka Haavisto, with a second round run-off between these two in prospect
SUNDAY EVENING 20:15 Presidential Election - Advance votes show Niinistö with 40%; Väyrynen and Haavisto still close for second place
Ministry of Justice Elections Portal
Elections Portal - Voting by Constituency
Sauli Niinistö (Wikipedia)
Pekka Haavisto (Wikipedia)