[QODLink]
Europe
Conservative wins Finland presidential vote
Sauli Niinistoe of the National Coalition Party has won 63 per cent of votes, defeating pro-euro Greens Party candidate.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2012 05:31
Sauli Niinisto said Finland was and would remain supportive of the European monetary union [EPA]

Pro-Europe politician Sauli Niinisto has won Finland's presidency in an election that showed voters want to keep the country in the euro zone despite misgivings over European Union bailouts.

The former finance minister won with 63 per cent support on Sunday, defeating pro-euro Greens Party candidate Pekka Haavisto.

The two had beaten anti-euro candidates, Paavo Vayrynen of the Centre party and Timo Soini of the Finns Party, in an earlier round last month.

The weak showing by the eurosceptics was a relief for Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, who like Niinisto is a member of the National Coalition party which supports conservative economic policy.

Analysts said worries about Europe's debt crisis, which could drag Finland's export-dependent economy into recession, may have persuaded voters to choose a steady and pragmatic pair of hands.

"In tough times people want to believe that somebody is in control of the economy," said University of Helsinki professor Tuomo Martikainen.

Tough fiscal reforms

Niinisto said Finland was and would remain supportive of European monetary union but that he understood Finnish voters' frustration over the debt crisis.

"The Finnish people have full right to be critical, but at the same time I would like to say that Finland has shown more solidarity than anybody else," he said.

Niinisto is credited with leading the small Nordic economy towards growth following the collapse of the Soviet Union during his tenure as finance minister from 1996 to 2001.

He is also supportive of tough fiscal reforms that Katainen is pushing in order to plug its deficit and make sure it retains its triple-A debt rating.

"I voted for Niinisto because I think in the current economic situation we need a president who has that kind of expertise," Katri, a 23-year-old student, said.

Some analysts had expected a stronger showing by anti-euro candidates, particularly Soini, whose Finns Party made strong gains in parliamentary elections last April and is now the biggest opposition group.

Niinisto and Haavisto may have also benefited from a backlash against eurosceptic politicians after some Finns Party candidates made highly publicised racist and homophobic remarks.

While Haavisto, the first openly gay presidential candidate, conceded with 37 percent, his success in the first round was a triumph for his party - a minor member of government with only 10 out of 200 seats in parliament.

Incumbent President Tarja Halonen was elected as the country's first female president in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.

She steps down on March 1 having served the maximum 12 years.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal is set to hear genocide charges for targeting ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims.
'I'm dying anyway, one piece at a time' said Steve Fobister, who suffers from disabilities caused by mercury poisoning.
The world's newest professional sport comes from an unlikely source: video games.
join our mailing list