Monday, 6 February 2012
Sauli Niinistö elected President of Finland
The election result is something of a watershed as it means that the President of Finland will, for the first time since 1982, not be a Social Democrat, and that, unusually, the President and the Prime Minister will belong to the same party.
In the first round of the election, held on 22 January, Sauli Niinistö won 36.96 % of the votes, while Pekka Haavisto received 18.76 % of the votes and thus narrowly bypassed Paavo Värynen of the Centre Party (17.53 %) as the second candidate in the second round. The Social Democrat candidate, former Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, received only 6.7 % of the votes.
Sauli Väinämö Niinistö, who was born on 24 August 1948, is a jurist by profession and was an MP 1987-2003 and 2007-2011. He served as leader of the Conservative party 1994-2001, was Minister of Justice 1995-1996 and Minister of Finance 1996-2003. He was his party’s candidate in the 2006 presidential election and gave the incumbent President, Tarja Halonen, tough competition, winning 48.2 % of the votes against Halonen’s 51.8 %. From 2007 till 2011 he served as Speaker of Parliament. He will be sworn in as President on 1 March, when Tarja Halonen’s second six-year term comes to an end.
Widowed in 1995, Niinistö remarried in 2009 to Jenni Haukio. The incoming First Lady of Finland is 34 years old, a poet and head of communication of the Conservative party.
The once significant powers of the President have been cut in recent years, most recently in October last year. The role of the President is now mostly ceremonial, but he or she retains a modest influence in foreign policy. The political scientist Ann-Cathrine Jungar wrote an interesting essay (external link) on the development of the presidential office in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet yesterday.
The photo shows the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.