Conservative Sauli Niinistö defeats the openly gay Green candidate in the presidential election in Finland

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The Conservative candidate Sauli Niinistö emerged as president of Finland in the second round of the country’s presidential election on February 5, 2012. Niinistö got 62.6 percent of the votes. The other candidate Pekka Haavisto of the Green League got 37.4 percent. He is openly gay and anti-equality views appear to have been one of the underlying motivations to back the conservative candidate. Populist value-conservative candidates did not make it to the second round and their supporters either voted Niinistö or chose not to vote. The percentage of voting dropped to 68 percent, which is low in presidential elections in Finland and has not been at that level since in the 50s.

During the campaign the presidential elect Sauli Niinistö took a stand openly against the proposed reform of the marriage legislation that would introduce equality in marriage in Finland.

In the Helsinki region the candidates were almost equal in support, with only a margin of a few thousands of votes.

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The president-elect has a mixed political record in matters related to sexual equality. In 2001 Niinistö voted in favor of the current legislation of registered partnerships while the majority of the Conservative Caucus was against the reform. As a presidential candidate in 2012 Niinistö did not support the introduction of full equality in marriage. Has indicated though that he would support the right of registered same sex couples to share a surname and that he would seek a solution to the issue of adoption and the way the registered partners are listed in the public records. The current system in Finland will enforce “outing” homosexuals due to the symbols used in public records. Equality in marriage would make the problems redundant, but Niinistö refused to endorse that reform.

Finland is a parliamentary democracy with the cabinet led by the Prime Minister. The president as head of state has lost much of his political power base since the 90s. The president is in charge of foreign policy albeit together with the government. In practice, as EU matters are being handled by the Prime Minister, this means relations to non-EU countries, notably the US, Russia and China. The Finnish president is not a German type of ceremonial head of state.

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