Pro-euro Finns lead ahead of presidential poll

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Pro-euro Finns lead ahead of presidential poll

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Free hot drinks appear to have given Finns a taste for Sauli Niinisto ahead of Saturday’s presidential election to replace Tarja Halonen.

The National Coalition candidate has been running a chain of coffee shops where people can drop in and pick up campaign literature and souvenirs.

It seems to have worked well as he is the clear favourite among the eight candidates for the largely ceremonial position. Four others are battling for second place and the polls suggest a second round of voting is likely.

Former government minister and hardline eurosceptic Paavo Vayrynen has run unsuccessfully twice before. This time round, the Centre Party politician is tipped in some quarters to finish second. But he faces a potentially close challenge from Timo Soini, head of the populist far-right Finns party, the leading opposition group.

Pekka Haavisto is the dark horse in the race. The ecologist from the Green League could upset the odds if he convinces people of his experience in conflict resolution within the UN.

The new president will replace outgoing Tarja Halonen, one of the country’s most popular presidents who is forbidden from running for a third six-year term.