PRESIDENT ELECT SAULI NIINISTÖ

PRESIDENT ELECT SAULI NIINISTÖ

STORY: SAULI NIINISTÖ
REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN

PRESIDENT ELECT SAULI NIINISTÖ

The conservative National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) presidential candidate Sauli Niinistö defeated his opponent, the Green Party (Vihreät) and first openly gay candidate Pekka Haavisto by 63% – 37% today.

A career politician, Niinistö, 63, was born in Salo, Southern Finland. He studied to become a lawyer and had his own law practice in his home town for 12 years before getting elected to the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta), in 1987. He served as Minister of Justice and Finance in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. In 2006 Niinistö unsuccessfully challenged the incumbent Social Democrat Tarja Halonen in presidential elections. Subsequently he became the Speaker of the Parliament, a post which he left last year.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PEKKA HAAVISTO

There was personal tragedy in Niinistö’s life. His first wife, Marja-Leena died in a car crash in 1995. As a widower, he dated the former beauty queen and later Minister of Culture, Tanja Karpela. They were engaged but never married and separated with a mutual agreement. Niinistö remarried14 years later. His current wife is 29 years younger than him. Jenni Haukio, 34, is a poet and publicist for the same National Coalition party that her husband belongs to. The attractive brunette is known for her conservative style in clothing and hairdo that make her look more mature than her years. Some have compared Jenni with the long-time president Urho Kekkonen’s wife Sylvi, who was also known for her modest black outfits. In 2004 Niinistö narrowly survived the Indian Ocean tsunami by climbing up a utility pole in Thailand with his son Matias.

PRESIDENT ELECT SAULI NIINISTÖ

Niinistö is known as a serious, no-nonsense politician with a dry sense of humor. Some people have lamented his grey, bureaucratic style and lack of personal charisma. In journalistic circles Niinistö is known as a sometimes uncooperative subject, who frets over being photographed without his specific approval and often turns down interview requests. He is a strong supporter of the European Union and stressed his experience and the importance of putting people to work in his presidential campaign. He is open to the possibility of Finland joining the NATO, but says it should not happen at the expense of maintaining good neighborly relations with bordering Russia. He is worried about the growing gap between the haves and have nots and sees the Occupy movement as a warning sign of this. Niinistö supports the LGBT-rights but would reserve the word “marriage” to opposite sex couples.

An election canvassing tent for the Greens in Finland, in Iso-Roobertinkatu, Helsinki

Over the last decades, the office of President of Finland has been stripped from most of its former powers. Today it is largely a symbolic post while the Prime Minister is in charge of daily politics.

Sauli Niinistö will be officially inaugurated as the 12th President of Finland on March 1st, 2012. Presidential term in Finland lasts six years.