Finland re-elects President Sauli Niinisto for 2nd term with over 62% votes; incumbent helped balance relations with Russia, NATO

Finland re-elects their popular and pragmatic president Sauli Niinisto, credited for maintaining a balanced relationship with the nation's powerful neighbour Russia

AFP January 29, 2018 08:12:18 IST
Finland re-elects President Sauli Niinisto for 2nd term with over 62% votes; incumbent helped balance relations with Russia, NATO

Helsinki: Finns have re-elected their popular and pragmatic president Sauli Niinisto, who is credited for maintaining a balanced relationship with the nation's powerful neighbour Russia at a time of simmering relations between Moscow the West.

"I am surprised and touched by this big support," Niinisto told reporters in Helsinki, who secured over 62 percent of the vote with nearly all the ballots counted.

Finland reelects President Sauli Niinisto for 2nd term with over 62 votes incumbent helped balance relations with Russia NATO

File image of Independent candidate Sauli Niinisto. AP

Niinisto, 69, avoided the need for a second-round of voting and won outright on Sunday, a first since Finland introduced a two-round presidential election by popular vote in 1994.

The politician who campaigned as an independent, has skilfully shifted the EU member state closer to NATO without antagonising Russia, with whom the Nordic nation shares the longest border in the bloc.

During his first term, Niinisto diligently cultivated ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has been at odds with the West, particularly since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Niinisto's main rival Pekka Haavisto of the Green party won just 12 percent of the votes.

Conceding defeat, he told reporters in Helsinki: "I admit that Saulu Niinisto clearly won, warm congratulations to him."

Born into a working-class family in the southwestern Finnish town of Salo in August 1948, Niinisto — the youngest of four children — became a lawyer before entering politics as a member of the conservative National Coalition Party.

An advocate of budgetary discipline, Niinisto helped pull Finland out of a deep recession in the 1990s and into the eurozone.

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