Finnish presidential election, 1988

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Finnish presidential election, 1988

← 1982 31 January-1 February 1994 →
  Mauno Koivisto.png 101px
Nominee Mauno Koivisto Paavo Väyrynen
Party Social Democratic Centre
Electoral vote 189 68

President before election

Mauno Koivisto
Social Democratic

Elected President

Mauno Koivisto
Social Democratic

Presidential elections were held in Finland in 1988.[1] They were the first elections held under a new system. Previously, the public had elected an electoral college that in turn elected the President. For this election, the public directly elected the President on 31 January and 1 February, but also elected an electoral college that would elect the President if no candidate won over 50% of the popular vote.[2] The college was increased in size from 300 to 301 seats to make a tie less likely, though this was still technically possible, as electors could abstain from voting.[2]

The contest's outcome, the re-election of Mauno Koivisto, surprised no one, yet he captured a smaller portion of the direct popular vote than expected—only 48.9 percent,[3] 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 with an 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 National Coalition Party (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, Centre Party's Paavo Väyrynen 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 Finnish People's Democratic League (SKDL) and the Greens, who got 10.4 percent. The strong finish of Väyrynen 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 Democratic Alternative (DeVa) candidate, Jouko Kajanoja, indicated the marginal role that the Stalinist wing of the communist movement played in the country's political life.


The campaign did not center, to any significant degree, on issues, but on the candidates themselves; Väyrynen 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 seek re-election again in 1994. Väyrynen 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 dissatisfied with their party's alliance with the socialists, combined with his extensive ministerial experience, made the relatively young Väyrynen Finland's foremost opposition politician. His strong finish, and the lack of any SDP politician of Koivisto's personal stature and popularity, guaranteed the Centre Party's 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.[4]


Popular vote


Candidate Party Votes %
Mauno Koivisto Social Democratic Party 1,513,234 48.9
Paavo Väyrynen Centre Party 636,375 20.6
Harri Holkeri National Coalition Party 570,340 18.4
Kalevi Kivistö Movement 88 330,072 10.7
Jouko Kajanoja Democratic Alternative 44,428 1.4
Invalid/blank votes 63,641
Total 3,158,090 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Electoral college

Party Votes % Seats
Social Democratic Party 1,175,209 39.4 128
Centre Party 647,769 21.7 68
National Coalition Party 603,180 20.2 63
Movement 88 286,833 9.6 26
Finnish Rural Party 120,043 4.0 7
Pro Koivisto 88,663 3.0 8
Democratic Alternative 56,528 1.9 0
Coalition for Åland 7,484 0.3 1
Invalid/blank votes 155,651
Total 3,141,360 100 300
Source: Nohln & Stöver

Electoral college vote

Candidate Party First round Second round
Votes % Votes %
Mauno Koivisto Social Democratic Party 144 48.0 189 63.0
Paavo Väyrynen Centre Party 68 22.7 68 22.7
Harri Holkeri National Coalition Party 63 21.0 18 6.0
Kalevi Kivistö Movement 88 26 8.7 26 8.7
Jouko Kajanoja Democratic Alternative 0 0.0
Total 301 100 301 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver


  1. Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p606 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nohlen & Stöver, p598
  3. Presidentin vaalit 1988. Suomen virallinen tilasto (Tilastokeskus 1988), s. 30–33.
  4. Text from PD source: US Library of Congress: A Country Study: Finland, Library of Congress Call Number DL1012 .A74 1990.