Alexander Stubb (NCP) announced his candidacy for the presidential elections on August 16, 2023, in Helsinki. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

On Monday, Finland woke up with an election hangover.

While the presidential candidates went to bed around midnight, some happier than others, the supporters around them continued to drink—some in disappointment, others in a kind of victory.


No President was elected, but two candidates, Alexander Stubb (NCP) and Pekka Haavisto (Greens) won enough votes to go to a second round in February.

Tactical voting played a major role in the outcome.

“I voted for Pekka Haavisto because I didn’t want Jussi Halla-aho (Finns) anywhere near the finish line,” said one voter.

Jutta Urpilainen (SDP), who finished far behind the top two candidates, said it straight on Sunday election night at the Helsinki City Hall:

“Tactical voting was even stronger than previously thought.”

Some who spoke to the reporter considered tactical voting “wrong,” “sheepish,” and “for the dull-minded” made possible by the two-round voting system.

“Strategic voting is for the sheep who believe every poll result published by the mass media,” said a man who preferred to be called by his nickname, Deadeye Dick.

“In one-round elections, like in the U.S., you either get Donald Trump or no Trump,” Dick added.

Pekka Haavisto (Greens) at the Educa fair in the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre on January 27, 2024. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

Believers in strategic voting despise early voting because once it’s done, it’s done. What if a candidate you hate, and the latest poll from your favorite tabloid down the line suggests that this candidate you’ve never met, never talked to—your main source of information has been provided to you by the tabloid that gives you stories like “Mika Aaltola talked about Noah’s Ark and Jussi Halla-aho said he would call Orbán”—suddenly has a chance to win?

By following your heart and intuition by voting early, you are now in a position where you cannot vote for the top two candidates in the polls. There is nothing you can do about it.

Non-aligned presidential candidate Mika Aaltola and his wife Kirsi at their campaign rally in Helsinki on January 28, 2024. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

Typically, the elderly are overrepresented in early voting statistics. Many are, after all, first-generation descendants of war veterans, or perhaps fought in the war itself—they have sisu. They have instincts that they hope will be passed on to their great-great-grandchildren in their mother’s milk.

Indeed. If there were enough voters willing to follow their guts, listen to their souls, and have some cojones, instead of being influenced by campaign budgets of millions of euros, mass media and tactics like strategic voting, people would give a truer reflection of the President they want.

Now the voters who supported political geniuses, first-timers like Mika Aaltola (non-aligned) who came second last with almost 50,000 votes, have to watch another round between two politicians who are tied in so many political knots that they may never be able to untie themselves and meet a potential voter with a sincere opinion and a genuine smile and a hug as if they meant it. (Haavisto began his political career in the 1980s, Stubb in the 2000s. Haavisto is a former Foreign Minister; Stubb a former Prime Minister.)

Now, for the sake of democracy, many will once again stand up, bite their lips, and cast another vote, sincere or not, maybe even for the candidate they despised in the first place.

For the sake of democracy.

The presidential election will go to a second round because no candidate received more than half of the vote in the first round.

In Finland, early voting for the second round will run from January 31 to February 6, 2023. Abroad, early voting for the second round will take place between January 31 and February 3, but many early voting centers abroad will be open for a shorter period. Election day for the second round is Sunday, February 11, 2024.