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Who is presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto? We know that he’s 59, a member of the Green League, likes to smile a lot and that he wears expensive suits and shoes in public that have been donated to him by a rich businessman for image reasons.
He is also openly gay. It wasn’t always so. In 1994, editor-in-chief of Greens’ political magazine Vihreä Lanka asked him that “are you gay?” “Well, I don’t think I am . . . I think that I belong to a group of Finns, maybe in the majority, who don’t think much of sexuality or the meaning of sexuality.”
Two weeks later the editor-in-chief was fired. The official reason was bad handling of company finances. Economy, however, wasn’t part of his job description. Interviews were.
Haavisto, however, had proved a point: he was a man of power and influence . . . a fierce little man sitting in the party leader’s chair.
Three years later he was appointed the Minister of Environment. On a holiday, he packed his backpack and jetted to Latin America, Columbia, where after all-nighters and bacchanals and perusing the local gay clubs, he during one sweaty night met a boy 20 years younger.
Haavisto fell in love instantly and fiercely. He was now officially gay. “When we met, Pekka was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and carrying a backpack, I thought that he was working in an office,” said Antonio Flores, the future love of his life. Later, the official story was changed to that they met on a beach. “I still think of it as my birthday,” said Flores in his official statement.
In the summer of ’98, Flores moved to Finland and after he found out that he was dating a Minister, he was here to stay. Haavisto and Flores established a civil union, and in 2007 Flores received the Finnish citizenship.
Haavisto ran for president for the first time in 2012. He managed to pull enough votes for a second round, where he would face the incumbent president, Sauli Niinistö. In the second, Sauli Niinistö, wiped the floor with Haavisto by receiving 62.6 percent of the votes (1.8 million), while Haavisto received 37.4 percent (1.1 million).
In 2011, some of the best image managers tried to get Haavisto into the palace. His political entourage, however, consisted of mostly wealthy men and women from the business world than shaggy-haired members of the Greens. According to the code of the group, appearing in photos with poor-looking people was to be avoided at all costs. Ties, shirt, suits and pocket handkerchiefs were delivered to the photoshoots promptly.
In preparation for tomorrow’s elections, Haavisto has played dozens of DJ gigs in his dark blazer, from speakeasies to clubs, playing mostly evergreens and rock, with a sore thumb from all the hammering on the stop and play buttons. “You’re a good man!” said a half-drunk man, who hugged Haavisto, while he was playing in a bar in Helsinki’s Kallio district in December.
The man took a selfie with Haavisto. Obviously, Haavisto doesn’t have the same image campaign working for him this time around.
For good or ill.
Sources: Sydänten presidentti (2012), Helsinki-kirjat, Vallantavoittelijat (2017), Tammi
Presidential elections are held on January 28 2018, with a second round on February 11, if necessary. The elected president’s term will be from March 1, 2018, to March 1, 2024.
The candidate in a nutshell:
Name: Pekka Haavisto
Marital status: Civil union