Book on Haavisto presidential campaign reveals tensions between campaign and Green party office
A fresh book on the campaign of Green League presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto, who made history by making it into the second round of this year’s elections, reveals behind-the-scenes tensions between leading figures in the campaign and staff at the party office.
The book, Sydänten presidentti (“President of Hearts”), by campaign manager Riikka Kämppi and author Jussi Lähde, analyse events within the campaign as well as media reactions in Finland and abroad to the “Haavisto phenomenon”.
According to Kämppi, a small group of Greens were putting spanners in the works even after Haavisto succeeded in reaching the second round.
Kämppi described the situation as “schizophrenic”. The Green Parliamentary group, many important figures, and supporters in the field supported the effort, but the party office and a few active members were critical of her work.
“When I confronted personal criticism, and I got more of it than I have in any previous task, it hurt and I often cried”, Kämppi recalls.
In the book Lähde writes that party secretary Panu Laturi criticised Kämppi and the management of the campaign in e-mails and messages to influential figures within the greens. He says that it nearly prevented Haavisto from making it to the second round.
The tension was blamed on efforts to make a clear distinction between the Haavisto presidential campaign and the party. In the view of entrepreneur Olli Muurainen, a key financial supporter, the presidential campaign should not look too much like a campaign of the Green party, because Haavisto needed to get votes beyond those of his party’s own supporters if he was to make it into the runoff.
The Haavisto campaign did not want to use the Green League’s own offices as its headquarters, and set up shop in the offices Muurainen’s company, Management Events.
The writers say that the strategy angered some Greens who felt that they were being overshadowed by a campaign that was moving in the wrong direction. Kämppi also says that there was election fatigue among many Greens after the discouraging result of last year’s parliamentary elections.
Laturi says that while there were problems in cooperation, they did not prove insurmountable.
“Sometimes there were fairly many misunderstandings, and it is always a bit difficult in big projects, but I did not see the situation nearly as difficult as the book describes.
“I feel that Riikka did very good work, and the result was good”, he emphasised.
The new book describes the campaign of the Green presidential candidate in detail from December 2010 through the spring of this year, when the implications of the outcome were analysed.
The surge in support for Haavisto was meteoric. He was not even invited to the first televised debates of the four “main candidates”, but he managed to rise from his underdog position into the runoff.
The book describes how a Green candidate from the city made efforts to be seen in rural events. The enthusiasm of grass-roots supporters and the quick reactions to rumours and news items that came up were also seen to have an important impact.
The writers also point out that the unexpectedly widespread support for the Green and openly gay Haavisto also attracted attention in the international media, leading to a need to revise the image of the country that had been established by the electoral success of the Finns Party.
The writers attribute Haavisto’s ultimate defeat to National Coalition Party candidate Sauli Niinistö in the second round to the campaign’s late start. They say that an earlier and quicker start might have led to a win in the second round as well.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Poll: Haavisto’s homosexuality caused many voters to support Niinistö (7.3.2012)
Pekka Haavisto returns to Parliament (7.2.2012)
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: Sauli Niinistö, 63, is Finland´s 12th President, after defeating Pekka Haavisto by a wide margin of 62.6% to 37.4% (6.2.2012)
COMMENTARY: A very different Finland from 12 years ago (24.1.2012)
EDITORIAL: Haavisto success delivers liberal backlash to last year´s Finns Party seismic shock (23.1.2012)