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HS poll: President Niinistö poised for re-election landslide

Just over four months before Finland's presidential election, the incumbent holds a commanding position, suggests a fresh poll.

Pekka Haavisto ja Sauli Niinistö
2018 could turn into a re-run of the 2012 election when Pekka Haavisto (l) faced off against Sauli Niinistö. Image: Yle

President Sauli Niinistö would gain 68 percent of the votes if the first round of the presidential election was held now, indicates a public opinion poll published by the leading daily Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday.

If the incumbent retains anything close to that level of support, he would win the election outright in the first round – which requires only a simple majority. So far half a dozen other candidates have announced their candidacy, or are expected to do so.

This latest poll gives the president an even stronger level of backing than one published in late August by Iltalehti, which showed Niinistö picking up 60 percent support.

According to the Helsingin Sanomat survey, the election could turn into a replay of the last such vote held in 2012, with Pekka Haavisto of the Greens as the second-most popular candidate. The former UN and EU official and environment minister is the choice of 13 percent of respondents in this latest poll.

In the first round of the last election, Haavisto scored just under 19 percent of the vote, going on to lose to Niinistö in the second round by a nearly two-to-one margin.

Last time Niinistö ran on the conservative National Coalition Party ticket, but this time will stand as an unaffiliated candidate.

Huhtasaari, Haatainen bubbling under

The poll indicates that the next most popular candidates are Laura Huhtasaari, who is likely to be the Finns Party candidate, and Tuula Haatainen of the Social Democratic Party. They are both polling at around three percent.

Garnering two percent support are the Left Alliance's Merja Kyllönen and the Centre's Matti Vanhanen.

Backing for the Swedish People's Party's Nils Torvalds is too low to measure. The MEP and former Communist Party activist is the only official candidate so far without ministerial experience.

The first round of the presidential election is set for January 28.

The HS survey was carried out by pollster Kantar TNS, which interviewed just under a thousand people between September 4 and 14. It sets the margin of error at about three percentage points, meaning that support levels for the minor candidates are virtually indistinguishable at this point.

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