Is Mika Aaltola Gunning to Be Our Next President?

14 94

 

Mika Aaltola comes from outside traditional politics, but in some circles is considered a political wizard.

When he is not running for the next Finnish president, he is in charge of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, a research institute with a sole mission to produce top-level topical information on international relations and the EU.

After following Aaltola’s campaigning since last November, it has become clear that he is a true gentleman, greeting everyone with a smile and a handshake. Sometimes a hug.

He speaks straight and does not hold back on his opinions, whether in an election panel on live TV or in freezing weather of nearly minus 30 degrees Celsius.

But are Finns ready for the next president who knows foreign policy as if inscribed in the grooves of his palm but has never debated in the Plenary Hall or the government box?

Text and Photographs: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

 

The weather was freezing on Friday afternoon, two days before the presidential election, in downtown Helsinki in front of the Kamppi shopping mall, and only one presidential candidate stood outside the warm campaign booths of a few other candidates, greeting people and exchanging views.

It was not the first time that Mika Aaltola, 54, was the only candidate standing in the cold, his campaign banner flapping in the cold wind. In early January, the temperature was almost minus 25 degrees Celsius, and he was also the only candidate standing in the freezing weather among the campaign volunteers of other candidates in Hakaniemi Square.

“I didn’t see any other presidential candidates here. I promised to come. And here I am,” he said firmly when the reporter asked where the others were.

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

Mika Aaltola campaigning in the Hakaniemi Square on January 8, 2024. Photographs: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY / Click to view the gallery.

Does it matter if the potential commander-in-chief of the Finnish Defense Forces is comfortable in Finnish winter weather? During his campaign, Aaltola has also braved icy conditions in more northern places, at least in Kuopio, Tampere, Jyväskylä and Oulu. Wherever he went, he was greeted with hearty handshakes and hugs.

Just like in Helsinki on Friday.

At the Narinkka Square, he was met by people of all ages. 16-year-olds wanted to exchange political views on the horrors of wars around the world, while others just wanted to take a selfie.

“Can you believe that of all the candidates I got a selfie with Mika Aaltola?” a couple of boys giggled on the way to the mall.

“I will vote for Mika because he is a non-aligned politician and he knows what he is talking about when it comes to foreign policy,” said Onni Luoma, 24, from Helsinki.

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

Mika Aaltola campaigning at the Narinkka Square on January 26, 2024. Photographs: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY / Click to view the gallery.

Mika Aaltola’s presence is large but warm. He stands over 190 centimeters tall. He is the director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and is on leave to run for president.

If he were not a political researcher, and if I did not know him better, I would imagine him to have a career in basketball, or maybe inside the squared circle in the heavyweight division of boxing.

But in real life, he seems more at ease than someone who engages in sports for adrenaline junkies. He is a thinker. And people and pols listen.

Here’s an example of his thinking in an excerpt from his third book (not counting his many scholarly publications), published last November: Havahtuminen — Turvallinen Eurooppa (Waking up — A Secure Europe).

“Finland needs its reputation in the world. A small player cannot afford to be some shabby and xenophobic nation on the edge of Europe. Of course, this does not mean that we should open our borders to everyone. We can be selective, and we have been.”

He’s also an “outsider,” coming from outside the political parties; he’s like you and me, but he was able to bring together 30,000 people for his constituency association who are entitled to vote (ten thousand less was the minimum), which makes him eligible to run for president without being a member of a registered party, and a man with years of doctoral-level experience in foreign policy.

“From outside the machines, the route is difficult, but not impossible. A path for non-party candidates has been created to strengthen democracy. It is true that I would not be honest to join a party for the sake of the election. It is also true that the road is rocky when you are alone against very old and highly networked machinery,” Aaltola wrote in the aforementioned book.

IS MIKA AALTOLA THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

Mika Aaltola and his spouse, Kirsi Aaltola, attending the Finnish Sports Gala on January 11, 2024. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

Mika Aaltola has lived in the United States for over eight years. He has worked as a professor and researcher in the country and previously completed his first degree there. Watch a sample of Aaltola speaking in English about religious peace at an election panel in Helsinki in November 2023. Video: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY

Let’s take a deeper look at the values of what Aaltola stands for.

“If a definition of my values is sought, I consider rooting for the Nordic welfare elements, where the less privileged and minorities are encouraged and defended, where everyone has the right to a dignified life from cradle to old age, and where the interests of future generations are not disregarded,” Aaltola described on his campaign website.

“Similarly, Finnish identity and national pride are virtues I hold dear and am proud of. When channeled correctly, they are a source of strength through which this nation has overcome challenges. Most recently, citizens’ determination to steer Finland towards NATO membership as the threat from Russia grew.”

Russia is a subject Aaltola has spoken a lot about in panel discussions, interviews and books.

He has said that we must not only prepare for Russia but also arm ourselves. According to Aaltola, preparedness is the best defense. As a president, he would lead the discussion on permanent defense spending of more than 2% of GDP. According to Aaltola, this would be a signal to the Russian president that Finland takes itself and its defense seriously.

As president, Aaltola would also like to start a discussion about abolishing dual citizenship between Finland and Russia. Not to deprive the 40,000 Russians with dual citizenship in Finland of their Finnish citizenship, but to help them get rid of their Russian citizenship, which in some cases can also be a security risk.

Aaltola calls the practice of granting dual citizenship to Russians, which began in 2003, a mistake and a liberal daydream. (For comparison, Russia doesn’t grant dual citizenship to Finnish citizens.)

Because of his long career in foreign policy, Aaltola calls himself a veteran of the Russian pressure. He rarely hears anything new from the Eastern front.

A young man approached Aaltola at the Educa fair on Saturday at the Helsinki Expo and Convention Center after the last election panel, and the presidential candidate met him with his usual warm smile and handshake.

“Tomorrow we officially go and vote with our son, Geo,” Aaltola said.

“Who is Geo going to vote for?” the young man asked.

“Yes, that would be interesting to see. He’d probably put something on it. He can draw number 7 because he’s been taught to do that,” Aaltola smiled.

Geo turns two this year.

The founder. The journalist, salesman and photojournalist. Contact: [email protected]

Source: finlandtoday.fi

14 Comments
  1. Alice Smith says

    As an outsider to traditional politics, Mika Aaltola’s expertise in foreign policy is evident. It’s refreshing to see a candidate who speaks candidly and isn’t afraid to share his opinions. However, the question remains: are the Finnish people ready to elect a president with no prior experience in parliamentary debates or government roles?

    1. Michael Johnson says

      As an experienced journalist translator and UI/UX copywriter, I believe that Mika Aaltola’s strong stance and straightforward communication style could be a breath of fresh air in Finnish politics. While his lack of parliamentary debate experience may raise concerns, his deep knowledge of foreign policy could bring a unique perspective to the presidential role. It will be interesting to see how Finnish voters perceive his outsider status when casting their ballots.

  2. EmilyJohnson says

    As a newcomer to the political scene, Mika Aaltola brings a fresh perspective and a deep understanding of international relations. His warmth and straightforwardness could be a breath of fresh air in Finnish politics. It’s time for a leader who prioritizes knowledge and honesty over traditional political experience. #AaltolaForPresident

  3. Julia Smith says

    As an outsider in the political arena, Mika Aaltola brings a fresh perspective to the table. It’s admirable that he’s unafraid to express his views boldly and authentically. However, the question remains – are Finnish citizens prepared to elect a president with strong expertise in foreign policy but lacking experience in parliamentary debates or government proceedings?

    1. Tom Johnson says

      As an experienced journalist, I can attest to the power of authenticity and boldness in political figures. Mika Aaltola’s expertise in foreign policy may just be the fresh perspective Finland needs. While parliamentary debates and government experience are important, a true leader shines through in various ways. Let’s see if Finnish citizens are ready for a different kind of president this time around.

  4. Emily Smith says

    I believe that Mika Aaltola’s background in international relations and his straightforward communication style make him a unique candidate for the Finnish presidency. While his lack of experience in traditional politics may raise some concerns, his dedication to serving the country and his ability to connect with people on a personal level could bring a fresh perspective to leadership.

  5. EmilyJohnson says

    Do you think Mika Aaltola’s lack of political experience could be a hindrance in gaining support for his presidential candidacy?

    1. CharlieSmith says

      As someone who values expertise over traditional politics, I believe Mika Aaltola’s deep insights in foreign policy could be a refreshing change in the presidential landscape. His lack of political experience may actually be an advantage, bringing a new perspective and approach to governance.

  6. JennaSmith says

    Do you think Mika Aaltola’s lack of political experience in traditional settings could be a hindrance in his campaign for the presidency?

  7. Mia Johnson says

    It’s refreshing to see a political figure like Mika Aaltola who brings a unique perspective to the table. His expertise in foreign policy and genuine approach in engaging with the public could be just what Finland needs for the next presidency.

  8. Anika Smith says

    As a political observer, I believe Mika Aaltola’s background in international relations gives him a unique perspective that could benefit Finland on the global stage. While he may lack experience in traditional politics, his genuine approach and firm stance on foreign policy issues make him a compelling candidate for the presidency.

  9. Mia Johnson says

    I think Mika Aaltola’s background in international relations gives him valuable insights that can benefit Finland in the global arena. His authenticity and directness in communicating his opinions may resonate well with the public. However, his lack of experience in traditional politics might be a concern for some voters. It will be interesting to see if Finns are willing to take a chance on a president with a fresh perspective.

  10. Kate Johnson says

    As a Finnish citizen, I believe we need a president like Mika Aaltola who prioritizes international relations and brings fresh perspectives to the table. It’s time for a leader who doesn’t shy away from tough discussions and can represent Finland on the global stage effectively.

  11. Molly Johnson says

    As a long-time observer of Finnish politics, I believe that Mika Aaltola’s background in international affairs sets him apart from other candidates. His straight-talking approach and deep knowledge of foreign policy make him a strong contender for the presidency, despite his lack of experience in traditional politics.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.