Although Pekka Haavisto was considered the big surprise in the Finnish presidential vote – not so much because of his greenness but the fact that he was gay – the elections offered a sampler of the unexpected. From a broader point of view, it could be said the real surprise was the relatively poor showing by the True Finns candidate Timo Soini.

As the True Finns were more successful than expected in the last general elections and the main architect of their success was the party leader Timo Soini, it was expected that Soini would give presidential favourite Sauli Niinistö a run for his money.

But he did not do so. Already before the results of the first round of the presidential election were in, it was clear that the voters at the presidential election would go by a completely different logic than in the parliamentary elections.

Although Finland’s president no longer has the power the post did in the Kekkonen or Koivisto era, Finnish voters still think of the president (perhaps from force of habit) as the country’s most influential political figure.

Voters act accordingly in the elections, where two things play a deciding role: the candidate’s personal qualities and previously accumulated political capital.

It may seem paradoxical but in this context, Soini was hurt rather than helped by his colourful countrified image and his vernacular and his corpulent frame. Finns saw these qualities as being well suited for the village arena and parliament but not on the more refined floors on which the president must tread as the figurehead of his or her country.

The banker-turned-politician Sauli Niinistö or long-serving former foreign minister Paavo Väyrynen did not raise doubts about whether they had good table manners. That was first mark in Soini’s disfavour. The second one was certainly his scant political capital. He may be a bright comet in Finland’s (and Europe’s) political firmament, but Niinistö, Väyrynen and other candidates had much more to show for themselves in this department and this was a second minus for Soini.

And the third negative was Soini’s Euroscepticism. This was a salient point at parliamentary elections. In pluralistic politics, it is simply logical that someone must also represent Eurosceptic voters, especially when the rest of the political elite openly reaches into the pocket of Finnish taxpayers in “the EU interest”. But a Eurosceptic president is another thing entirely, as a firm doctrine in this area runs the risk of isolation from Europe. And the average Finn is too cautious and pragmatic to allow this. At any rate, Finns live day in and day out knowing their eastern neighbour is. And as toothless and clumsy as the European Union may be in foreign policy, Finns still see it as better than nothing as a security guarantee.

Furthermore, by the time of the presidential election, Soini had lost the trump card he had had during the Eduskunta elections – the Greece card. Greece’s long and protracted crisis, and the entire long and protracted crisis of the euro currency no longer were topics that would have brought voters out to the polls in droves. And thus Soini had to settle for a worse than hoped showing, although not nearly a poor one.

As to the big surprise of these elections, Pekka Haavisto, he will have a hard time repeating his success at the next elections, as the novelty of an openly gay candidate who rallied the left and liberals will no longer be fresh the next time. Thus he, like Soini, will have to continue accumulating liquid and convertible political capital. 