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Finns elect conservative president

A former finance minister has won Finland's presidential election, becoming the country's first conservative head of state in 50 years.

Sauli Niinisto won 63% of the votes, compared with 37% for his rival, Greens candidate Pekka Haavisto, the election results showed.

Mr Niinisto, 63, will become the first president from the conservative National Coalition Party since 1956, and the first in 30 years from a party other than the centre-left Social Democrats.

He will replace Tarja Halonen, one of Finland's most popular heads of state, who has served the maximum two six-year terms.

"The president in Finland has to understand that there are many different thoughts and opinions and that they must be taken into account so that he could be the president of the whole nation," Mr Niinisto said in his victory speech.

Finland's president has a largely ceremonial role with fewer powers now than in previous decades, and is not directly involved in daily politics. However, the head of state takes the lead on non-EU matters of foreign policy, is seen as an important shaper of public opinion, and plays a role as a "brand ambassador" of Finland overseas.


From Belfast Telegraph