HELSINKI, March 17 (Xinhua) -- The 2018 Finnish presidential race began with a somewhat surprising start on Thursday as former prime minister Matti Vanhanen told the Centre Party parliamentary caucus about his plans for candidacy on Thursday.
Political commentators noted the announcement had not been preceded with the usual advance leaks. Vanhanen announced later on Thursday that he would step down from the job as the caucus chairman. His first step toward candidacy is the intra-party primary.
Vanhanen ran in the 2006 presidential election, but did not make it to the second round. In the 2012 election, the Centre Party candidate was Paavo Vayrynen, who was not in the final round either.
In the 2012 election, Conservative candidate Sauli Niinisto defeated Green Party candidate Pekka Haavisto in the second round. In the final result, Niinisto received support from many of the conservative and rural voters, while Haavisto attracted liberal and urban voters.
Incumbent president Sauli Niinisto has not announced whether he plans to run for re-election or not. If Niinisto were not to run, a centrist candidate would be a hopeful to win, local observers have noted.
The 2012 Centre Party candidate Paavo Vayranen has just launched a party of his own. Commentators have presumed he would run on his own party ticket in 2018.