Are Finns tolerant enough for a gay president?
If you're Finnish, Pekka Haavisto wants your vote. He’s an environmentalist. He was elected to the parliament in 1987. He represented the European Union in peace talks over Darfur. And he’s gay.
That last detail could be a sticking point for Finnish voters in Sunday's election, despite the fact that Nordic nations take pride in being progressive and tolerant, the Associated Press reports.
He and his conservative opponent "are very similar in their views on foreign policy -- the president's traditional domain -- and there is no obvious clash there," political analyst Olavi Borg told the AP. "But a majority of Finns are not prepared … to be represented by a homosexual."
If Haavisto does win over the voters, he won't be the first openly gay leader in the world. Iceland elected Johanna Sigurdardottir as prime minister three years ago. In Belgium late last year, Elio Di Rupo was sworn in as prime minister.
Here in the U.S., there's also a gay presidential candidate, Fred Karger, a Republican who spent nearly 30 years advising the top Republicans in California. It's no surprise if you haven't heard of him; Karger has struggled to get attention and credibility, The Times reported in August:
Trying to wedge his way onto the debate stage, Karger has lobbied TV networks and event organizers, urged pollsters to include him in their surveys — poll numbers being one criterion to participate — and started a website, http://www.letfredin.com, to make his case. So far it has been to no avail; he will look on Thursday night as others participate in the third debate of the campaign.
What may be most frustrating, though, is the way Karger, a skilled and respected political pro, is so often treated as a kook. He mentions a New Hampshire visit where a local reporter showed him photos of Lobsterman, a costumed crustacean and perennial candidate, suggesting a kinship. "Not even Pat Buchanan or Alan Keyes," Karger lamented, citing Republicans who at least debated their opponents before voters ushered them away.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto, left, talks with his partner, Nexar Antonio Flores, at a news conference in Helsinki on Jan. 23. Credit: Markku Ulander / Agence France-Presse