Televised presidential debate dominated by euro crisis
Niinistö expects inflation to take care of debt situation
Wednesday evening’s televised debate, featuring all eight candidates in the upcoming presidential election, was seen as the launch of the serious election campaign.
The debate was aired by the commercial television network MTV3.
Helsingin Sanomat picked some of the highlights of the discussion.
As expected, the first topic was the European debt crisis.
Paavo Lipponen (SDP) called for moderation in the debate, and asked that the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance be given the peace they need to negotiate.
Lipponen attacked True Finns candidate Timo Soini, charging that Soini “does not care at all what will happen to the euro".
Soini responded by expressing wonder at when defenders of the euro think would be the right time to warn about the dangers of the euro. He called the economic and monetary union a “debt and income transfer union”.
Election front-runner Sauli Niinistö (Nat. Coalition Party) stipulated that the crisis is mainly about excessive indebtedness in the Western world. “In such a situation we must not go out on our own.”
Soini and Paavo Väyrynen (Centre Party) were the only two who predicted that the euro would not survive. Väyrynen qualified his statement by saying that he does not believe that the euro would be kept by all of the countries that have it now.
Niinistö predicted that the euro’s problems would be resolved through inflation and printing money.
Pekka Haavisto (Green) expects the euro to survive because Germany and France are determined that it will.
On the security and foreign policy issue, only Soini, Haavisto, and Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance) had answered a question on the MTV3 website in a way that sees Russia as some kind of a military threat to Finland.
There were no major disagreements on the present situation in Russia.
The best laughs came from a comment sent in from a viewer, praising "Paavo's good sense of humour". The message did not specify which of the three candidates named “Paavo” was being applauded.
When one of the moderators of the debate asked whether evaluations of the performance of President Tarja Halonen at the end of her final term as head of state amounted to “kicking Grandma”, Niinistö inspired a murmur of approval with his response: “With permission, the expression is not really in very good taste”.
The studio audience also responded with some mirth to the normally wordy Paavo Väyrynen, who noted that Sari Essayah (Christ. Dem.) spoke for a long time, after she had finally got a chance to say something.
In addition to Essayah, Eva Biaudet (Swedish People’s Party) was largely left in the background, after a lively opening.
The overall feeling at the debate was one of a very energetic, although somewhat confused discussion.
Online feedback suggested that the heroes of the hour were Soini, Niinistö, Väyrynen, and Haavisto.
The candidates will meet for another televised debate on Thursday, hosted by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).
Previously in HS International Edition:
SDP presidential candidate Paavo Lipponen: Finland needs to be fully in core of EU (13.2.2011)
Presidential race: Haavisto rejects Arhinmäki innuendo over NATO stance (28.11.2011)
Presidential candidates meet at debate organised by main labour union confederations (24.11.2011)
Presidential candidates debate at Helsinki Book Fair (31.10.2011)