Sauli Niinisto, a veteran conservative leads the race to become Finland’s 12th president after the first round of voting. He won almost 37 percent of the votes. He needed to poll 50 per cent to be declared the outright winner. The result means the contest will go to a second ballot.
Pekka Haavisto from the country’s Green Party is the other candidate who will go forward to the run off. Like Niinisto he is pro- European. He claimed just under 19 percent in the ballot. The top two candidates parties are part of Finland’s ruling coalition.
Timo Soini, the leader of the eurosceptic Finns Party campaigned saying his country should not have to pay for the mistakes of others. Despite his party’s high showing in the parliamentary election he trailed in fourth out of the eight candidates.
One of the key issues for voters was membership of NATO. Many fear that joining the alliance could provoke neighbours Russia after decades of neutrality during the Cold War. Now the voters will have to go to the polls again with the next round on February 5. The president has a largely ceremonial role and is not involved in daily politics.