The Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, has been re-elected for another six-year term after winning an historic victory in the first round of the presidential elections.
Niinistö, 69, took 62.7 percent of the vote, achieving an absolute majority and making a second round unnecessary.
Pekka Haavisto of the Green League came in a distant second place with 12.4 percent, followed by the populist Laura Huhtasaari, of the ultranationalist True Finns party, with 6.9 percent.
“I am very surprised at this kind of support. I must think hard how to be worthy of it,” a visibly moved Niinistö told the press.
Niinistö decided not to stand for election as a candidate for his party, the conservative Kokoomus, running instead as an independent to appear before the electorate as a being above party politics, a strategy credited with winning him the election.
Niinistö is seen as a pragmatic politician who has managed to maintain good relations during his first term with both President Vladimir Putin’s Russia and NATO, of which Finland is not a member but with which it has close ties.
The Finnish president defends the European sanctions against Moscow in the wake of the annexation of Crimea and the war in the east of Ukraine, despite the fact that Finland was one of the countries most affected by the Russian countermeasures against the European Union, being one of its main commercial partners.
An avowed supporter of the EU, Niinistö is in favour of Finland remaining within the bloc and the single currency.
The Finnish president represents the country on the international stage, is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and directs the country’s foreign and security policies in agreement with the Government and Parliament, but does not have competencies in internal issues such as the economy and social policies.