Sauli Niinisto won Finland’s presidential election on Sunday, garnering 63% of the popular vote, amid fears that anti-euro candidates would make a much stronger showing. Niinisto, a former finance minister, is a strong supporter of keeping Finland in the joint currency.
Reuters reported that, despite their dissatisfaction with the way the eurozone has handled the debt crisis, concerns over the possibility of that crisis dragging their own export-dependent economy down led voters to support a candidate with experience in growing the nation’s economy.
Niinisto defeated Greens party and openly gay candidate Pekka Haavisto, who took 37% of the vote. Both Niinisto and Haavisto were victorious in earlier rounds of voting over anti-euro candidates Paavo Vayrynen of the Center party and Timo Soini of the Finns party in January.
A stronger showing by anti-euro candidates had been expected by some analysts after the Finns party garnered considerable support in parliamentary elections last April. However, racist and homophobic remarks by euroskeptics might have resulted in a backlash and strengthened Niinisto’s position.
Niinisto, who is supportive of Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen’s efforts to impose strict fiscal reforms as a means of ensuring the country keeps its triple-A rating, said he understood Finns’ frustration over the debt crisis. He was quoted saying, “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.”
Finland’s current president, Tarja Halonen, will step down on March 1 after serving the maximum of two 6-year terms. She was the country’s first female president, elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.