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The presidential election held on January 31 and February 1, 1988, was the first to use the new procedures for choosing the nation's highest official. The contest's outcome, the re-election of Mauno Koivisto, surprised no one, yet he captured a smaller portion of the direct vote than expected--only 47.9 percent, rather than the 60 to 70 percent forecast by opinion polls during 1987. His failure to win more than half of the direct, or popular, vote of the 84 percent turnout meant that Koivisto could claim victory only after he had the support of a majority of the 301-member electoral college. This he achieved on the body's second ballot, when the votes of 45 of the 63 electors pledged to the KOK candidate, Prime Minister Harri Holkeri, were added to those of the 144 electors he had won on his own. Koivisto's inability to win the presidency directly was caused by an upsurge of support in the final weeks of the campaign for his stronger rivals, Kesk's Paavo Vayrynen and the KOK's Holkeri--who got 20.1 and 18.1 percent of the vote respectively, and Kalevi Kivistö, the candidate of voters linked to the SKDL and the Greens, who got 10.4 percent. The strong finish of Vayrynen and Kivistö was regarded by some as a vote against the KOK-SDP coalition formed after the March 1987 parliamentary election. The 1.4 percent garnered by the DEVA candidate, Jouko Kajanoja, indicated the marginal role that the Stalinist wing of the communist movement played in the country's political life.
The presidential campaign did not center, to any significant degree, on issues, but on the candidates themselves; Vayrynen and Holkeri both clearly wanted to position themselves well for the presidential election of 1994. Neither had any hope of defeating the ever-popular Koivisto in 1988, and it was widely assumed that he would not again seek reelection. Vayrynen was seen as the winner of this race for position, in that he had come from far behind in the polls, had easily beaten Koivisto in the northern provinces, had found good support elsewhere--except in the Helsinki area, and had cemented his leadership role in his own party. His strong party base and his ability to attract conservatives dissatified with their party's alliance with the socialists, combined with his extensive ministerial experience, made the relatively young Vayrynen Finland's foremost opposition politician. His strong finish, and the lack of any SDP politician of Koivisto's personal stature and popularity, guaranteed Kesk continued significance in the country's political life even when in opposition, and were perhaps signs that the dominance of postindustrial southern Finland over the country as a whole might only be temporary.
More about the Government and Politics of Finland.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress