Speaking at a press conference convened at his official residence, Mäntyniemi, President Sauli Niinistö announced that he planned to seek a second term in office. However he said he would not run on any party ticket, but would compete as a non-affiliated candidate. In the 2012 presidential election, Niinistö ran on a National Coaliton Party ticket.
Niinistö said he chose to run independently of any political party so that he could measure the breadth of his popular support. He also noted that the role of president has increasingly become independent of party politics.
Niinistö’s announcement has put to rest broad speculation about whether or not he would run in next year’s presidential election. So far the Centre Party, Greens and Left Alliance have all put forward candidates for the election.
Ex-Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen will represent the Centre Party, while former presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto will re-enter the ring for the Greens. MEP Merja Kyllönen and former Transport Minister Merja Kyllönen will run on behalf of the Left Alliance.
Niinistö a favourite to continue
Niinistö has long been tipped as a favourite to win the election and serve a second term. A poll commissioned by Yle in December 2016 found that 52 percent of respondents said they’d like to see him remain in office.
Niinistö’s support cut across all party boundaries and was highest among Finns Party supporters – 75 percent of them said they would vote for the incumbent.
The Greens’ Haavisto trailed in a distant second place with support from just nine percent of respondents.