Finland re-elects Sauli Niinisto as its President

Anti-EU candidate Laura Huhtasaari has vowed to'defend Finland in the presidential election

Anti-EU candidate Laura Huhtasaari has vowed to'defend Finland in the presidential election

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was re-elected to a second term, the first time the popular vote - and not a runoff - was sufficient to determine a victor. His closest rival, Pekka Haavisto of the Greens of Finland, secured just 12.4 percent.

Finland's president designs the blueprint for the country's foreign and security policy together with the government.

He needed a majority to prevent a runoff and to win re-election outright.

The politician who campaigned as an independent, has skilfully shifted the European Union member state closer to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation without antagonising Russian Federation, with whom the Nordic nation shares the longest border in the bloc. He faced flak for inviting Putin to visit shortly after the annexation.

"I think there is no reason to seek [NATO] membership as long as circumstances are as they are now", Niinisto said.

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Rather than seeking the nomination of his National Coalition, Niinisto ran as an independent candidate. We have different views of [the situation] in Ukraine, Crimea.

An advocate of budgetary discipline, Niinisto helped pull Finland out of a deep recession in the 1990s and into the eurozone. He was in Thailand during the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean quake and tsunami and survived by climbing up an electricity pole with his son.

"His habits reflect his experience and ordeal, and that combined with his very moderate policy statements makes him a kind of "father of a nation" figure", said Juho Rahkonen, Research Manager at pollster Taloustutkimus.

Niinisto, 69, who originally represented the conservative NCP party, was leading with 64.3 percent of the votes, compared to Haavisto's 11.1 percent, with around 50 percent of votes counted.

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