- Title: FINLAND: Candidates vote in Finnish presidential elections
- Date: 6th February 2012
- Summary: PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SAULI NIINISTO AND HIS WIFE JENNI HAUKIO ARRIVING TO VOTE
- Embargoed: 21st February 2012 12:00
- Location: Finland, Finland
- Country: Finland
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA3A0Q7PNTUGI5U1FEI05IFCHJW
- Story Text: Finland voted in a presidential runoff on Sunday (February 5) with former finance minister Sauli Niinisto billed to win the vote.
Niinisto won the first round on January 22, with 37 per cent of the vote, signalling voters want to keep cooperating with the European Union despite their frustration over bailouts for debt-ridden member states.
His rival, Pekka Haavisto, who is also pro-euro, got about 19 per cent in the first round.
In the capital Helsinki, he cast his vote alongside his life partner.
Haavisto, from the Greens Party, is Finland's first openly gay presidential candidate.
"Well, we have had a very intensive two weeks campaign now, which has been done quite successful, very many people have joined to the campaign after the first round. I think of all our campaign meetings, a lot of people have came. So I think the presidential elections have been very interesting for the finns, I hope that the voting percentage will be very high and now just to wait and see," presidential candidate, Pekka Haavisto, said.
High taxes, combined with a lacklustre economic growth outlook, fuelled criticism that Finland was helping some countries get an easy ride out of debt, while voters faced austerity at home.
Yet the result in the first round showed most voters would rather be represented by a more internationalist leader, with all anti-euro candidates forced to drop out after the last round.
Frontrunner Niinisto, representing the National Coalition party, arrived with his wife to vote, but wasn't keen to speak about anything more than the weather in Helsinki, where temperatures were around -15 degrees Celsisus (5 degrees Fahrenheit) around lunchtime.
"Well, this is a wonderful Sunday: the sun is shining and well a bit cold, nevertheless. (Journalist asking: Are you excited or nervous?) Well non-no. If one would be nervous one has a lot of reasons for that so it's in vain," Niinisto said.
While the president has little executive power beyond military and diplomatic affairs, it is a high-profile post and the strength of the pro-euro vote will ease pressure on the government to take a hard line against Brussels.
A eurosceptic leader may have forced Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen to demand stricter conditions on European bailout plans in the months ahead.
President Tarja Halonen was elected as the country's first woman president in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.
She steps down having served 12 years, the maximum allowable term in office.
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