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Homophobia at the Finnish Presidential Election?

Homophobia at the Finnish Presidential Election?

Last Sunday, Finland had elected its 13th president. The National Coalition party candidate Alexander Stubb and the Green Party candidate Pekka Haavisto proceeded to the second round of elections. Both are experienced politicians with strong backgrounds in foreign policy. It was clear that the race was going to be tight. However, Alexander Stubb won the election with 51.6% of the votes. This raised the question in many of Haavisto voters as to why Haavisto lost. Stubb, who left domestic politics years ago after a failed term as prime minister and moved to Italy, seemed a less obvious choice than Pekka Haavisto, who had been active in domestic politics all this time. Could it be because Haavisto is openly gay?

The results of the election caused some stir in social media, with many parts of the LGBTQ community feeling the loss of Haavisto as a personal blow and a sign of the still prevalent homophobia in Finland. Not to dismiss their reaction to Haavisto losing, this blog, however, offers a more critical viewpoint of what’s happening in Finnish politics rather than narrowing it down just to homophobia. Which is money. Like in many other parts of the world, the Finnish campaign budgets have seen a steep rise in recent years, with Haavisto’s estimated budget being a staggering 1.5 million euros. However, his opponent, Stubb, had his budget at almost 2.5 million euros. This meant that, in theory, where one vote for Haavisto cost him around 0.9 cents, Stubb’s votes cost him 2.15 euros.

With such a huge budget to help him in campaigning, Stubb was able to reach more Finnish people. On top of this, smaller contributors to his win were probably his charisma, younger age and his time off domestic politics. This had allowed many Finns to forget his mishaps while in the lead, whereas people’s dissatisfactions with Haavisto were still fresh in everyone’s minds.

It’s important to be mindful of the social injustices one sees in their community. None of this is by no means to deny the existence of homophobia in Finland or to say that there weren’t some homophobic people who voted against Haavisto. However, painting a picture in which almost 1.6 million Finnish people voted for Stubb because of homophobia is too simplistic. In Finland, like in many other countries, the focus should be shifted to the insane spending of campaign budgets, after the latest showdown, rather than finding simple answers to complex problems.

Carlene Olivia Coker-Appiah

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