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Finnish president elected

February 5, 2012

Conservative candidate Sauli Niinistoe has won Finland's presidential elections. Facing a massive deficit with over half the votes counted, Green party candidate Pekka Haavisto has conceded defeat.

Election officials count postal votes at a counting centre in downtown Helsinki

Conservative candidate and runaway favorite Sauli Niinistoe secured the Finnish presidency on Sunday with a comfortable election victory.

Green Party contender Pekka Haavisto conceded defeat on Sunday evening, with partial results showing a massive gulf between the two rivals.

"I am satisfied. It was better than I expected," Niinistoe said.

With over 90 percent of the votes counted, 63-year-old Niinistoe had 63 percent of the vote, compared to 37 percent for Haavisto. These results pointed towards a slightly larger margin of victory than was predicted in the polls.

Second time lucky

Niinistoe's win was a comeback of sorts after he lost in a 2006 runoff to President Tarja Halonen, who could not stand for a third six-year term in this election.

Niinistoe, a former finance minister and parliamentary speaker, is a member of the conservative National Coalition Party. He also campaigned on a pro-EU platform amid increasing Finnish frustration over debt difficulties elsewhere in the bloc.

The Finnish presidency is a largely ceremonial role, although Niinistoe will have some say on certain aspects of foreign policy.

His openly gay Green party rival Pekka Haavisto, 53, said that he was happy with his showing in the election, also praising the high youth turnout and what he called "a new tone" in Finnish politics.

Of eligible voters, 69 percent braved exceptionally cold temperatures - even by Finland's February standards - to cast their ballots. That turnout, however, was lower than the 2006 presidential election.

msh/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa)