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Friday's papers: Presidential poll, party in peril, and cyber training

Nato leaders praised Finland's competencies in a cyber exercise in Tallinn, noting that Finland joining the alliance will increase its capabilities.

Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto ran for president in 2012 and 2018. Image: Robert Ghement/EPA-EFE
Yle News

A poll published on Friday by farmer's union circular Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (siirryt toiseen palveluun) shows Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Green) as leader in the outlet's presidential poll.

Out of nearly 1,000 respondents, 17.3 percent said they supported Haavisto to succeed Sauli Niinistö at the next election in 2024. After two terms in office, Niinistö is constitutionally barred from running again.

Following Haavisto was the Centre Party's Olli Rehn, current Governor of the Bank of Finland, and Mika Aaltola, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Compared to the previous MT presidential poll in early July, Rehn in particular has lost popularity. In the summer, Rehn received 20 percent of the vote, but now his support is just under 14 percent.

Aaltola, who has not declared any possible candidacy, has been in the public spotlight this year because of his foreign policy expertise, making many television and media appearances. Since the last MT poll this summer, his support has risen from five to eight percent.

Haavisto's support remained unchanged at 17 percent. The Green League MP has previously run for president in 2012 and 2018, losing out to Niinistö on both occasions.

An Yle poll from March showed a similar ranking to the MT poll from July.

A plurality of respondents, 28.8 percent, said that they could not say who they wanted to see as the next president. Other names rounding out the list were Jussi Halla-aho (Finns) at 5.8 percent and Alexander Stubb (NCP) at 4.5 percent.

The poll included 16 candidates from different parties who had received support in previous polls. Respondents were also asked to nominate the candidate of their choice. Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SPD) received the most mentions. Marin has previously announced that she will not run for president in 2024.

The presidential poll was conducted by Kantar TNS Agri between 2 and 7 December with 1,029 individuals responding to the survey. The margin of error is +- three percentage points.

Ex-Centre secretaries react to popularity crash

Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) covered doom and gloom within the Centre Party, as its support dipped to 9.0 percent in an Yle poll published on Thursday.

Former Centre Party secretaries Seppo Kääriäinen and Jarmo Korhonen gave their views on the situation to IS.

"There is always work to be done, there is always work to be done. The party leadership, the ministers and the parliamentary group will hopefully now stop [and think] in the face of reality," Kääriäinen told IS.

In the 2019 election, the Centre Party collapsed from being the party of the prime minister to the fourth most popular party, and since then its support has fallen below 10 percent.

The party is now polling behind the Green Party, nearly on par with the Left Alliance.

"The Centre must admit that it has failed completely under a green-left government. The Centre Party must change its line and announce where it will seek support in the elections," Korhonen suggested.

He added that the party's stances are unclear which has whittled away its popularity.

The Centre Party has traditionally relied on rural voters, with much of its support coming from outside of Finland's major population centres.

Despite the current forecast for the Centre Party, the former leaders maintained a shred of hope for the coming parliamentary election in April. This parliamentary term has seen three Centre Party leaders, Juha Sipilä, Katri Kulmuni, and the current chair Annika Saarikko.

Kääriäinen used a colourful Finnish idiom to urge his party comrades not to give up.

"Let's not throw the axe into the well on the basis of a disastrous, dismal election result. We must rally the ranks and get our spirits up! The electoral situation and mood are largely decided during the last month, when people then vote," Kääriäinen said

Nato praise

Finland's Nato application might not be moving forward as quickly as hoped, but behind the scenes Finnish defence forces continue their cooperation efforts with the alliance.

On Friday Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports on a major Nato cyber exercise that saw Finnish forces join western counterparts for exercises in digital resilience.

The Cyber Coalition 2022 exercise took place last week in the centre of the Estonian capital Tallinn and focused on how the alliance would face potential threats from cyberspace. Of particular significance was the resiliency of critical infrastructure such as energy grids in light of Russia's strategy in Ukraine.

More than 30 countries were involved in the exercise with over 1,000 participants.

HS wrote that the Nato exercise in Tallinn was shaped by recent events in Ukraine as Russia targets critical infrastructure to try and cripple Ukraine's power network.

"However, the real-world scenarios we are training for here, we are currently seeing in Ukraine," Colonel Bernd Hansen of Nato's Allied Command Transformation (Act) told HS.

Major Markus Riihonen, a cyber defence specialist from the Command and Control Systems division of the Finnish Defence Command, was present in Tallinn.

The Finnish participants practised incident management in power distribution systems, air traffic control systems and port logistics systems, he told HS.

In total, about 25 Finns from the Finnish Defence Forces and other authorities took part in the exercise, many of them remotely from Finland.

Riihonen said that the cyber battlespace is a concern every day in the real world, both in Finland and in Ukraine. It can be about intelligence, crime, harassment or even state influence.

"It's a game that's going on all the time, and we're part of it, whether we like it or not," Riihonen said.

Commander Charles Elliott told HS that Finland and Sweden are quite competent in this field and bring a lot to the exercise and to NATO in general.

"Their experience is excellent."

Elliott illustrates the capabilities of Finland and Sweden by recalling another NATO cyber exercise, Locked Shields, in which the countries compete against each other. This year's winner was Finland, last year Sweden.

Deputy Secretary General David van Weel believes that Finland and Sweden will integrate into NATO in terms of cyber activities "very quickly and very easily".

"We look forward to welcoming Finland and Sweden into our innovation ecosystem to maintain our technological edge," van Weel said to HS.

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