Former foreign minister Pekka Haavisto (Green), the front-runner ahead of next year’s presidential election, formally launched his presidential campaign on Tuesday evening at the Helsinki Music Centre, unveiling a list of well-known supporters.
Haavisto's election campaign is supported by a delegation chaired by Jaana Pelkonen, a former MP from the National Coalition Party, which Prime Minister Petteri Orpo now leads. Before entering politics, Pelkonen was a TV host and Eurovision Song Contest announcer.
Pelkonen announced that the voters’ association backing his bid had collected 48,000 supporter cards by the end of September – more than twice the minimum 20,000 signatures needed for a candidate to run backed by a voters’ association rather than a political party.
The delegation's honorary chair is former defence minister and UN official Elisabeth Rehn, who was a second-round presidential candidate in 1994 representing the Swedish People's Party.
Other members of the delegation include author Sofi Oksanen, actor and environmental activist Jasper Pääkkönen and former hip-hop star Jare ‘Cheek’ Tiihonen.
Greens MP Haavisto has held several government portfolios, including as foreign minister from 2019 until last June.
NCP's Stubb likely strongest rival
Haavisto, who has been leading public opinion polls for many months, is running for president for the third time. In 2012 and 2018, he ran as the Greens candidate but both times lost to incumbent President Sauli Niinistö in the second-round runoff.
The former Greens chair became the first European government minister representing a Green party in 1995. He has also worked in several international positions, including for the UN in the Balkans and as the EU representative at the Darfur peace talks in Sudan.
The latest Yle poll shows Haavisto edging out NCP candidate Alexander Stubb in a likely second round, with three other candidates all polling around the 10 percent mark: Olli Rehn (Cen), Mika Aaltola (independent) and Jussi Halla-aho (Finns).
Altogether about a dozen people are vying for the post. Niinistö’s second six-year term is to end at the beginning of March.
Advance voting in the presidential election begins in mid-January. Details about the election schedule can be found here.