Finland’s left-leaning President Tarja Halonen won a second six-year term in a run-off against conservative challenger Sauli Niinisto.Official results showed she won about 52 percent of the vote.
She failed to get an outright majority in the first round two weeks ago. Halonen, a Social Democrat backed by other left-wing groups, became the country’s first woman head of state in 2000. “Six years ago, when I became the first female president, it was of course of great interest, now my supporters and friends have said that this is now the first time that a woman has become re-elected.” she said. Despite being an opposition candidate, Niinisto won backing from many supporters of the Centre Party, which leads the ruling coalition. His strong showing is seen as a good sign for the prospects of his National Coalition Party in parliamentary polls next year. Most of the president’s powers were cut when Halonen first took office. But she’s still in charge of foreign policy in co-operation with the government and is commander-in-chief of the defence forces. Relations with the European Union, which Finland joined in 1995, are largely handled by the prime minister.