Finnish voters look set to elect veteran conservative Sauli Niinisto as their next president as anti-euro sentiment takes a backseat to economic concerns. The former finance minister from the National Coalition party, with around 40 percent support in polls, is clear favourite for the January 22 election. After the highly eurosceptic Finns Party emerged from obscurity to become the main opposition in April’s general election – on a campaign opposing EU bailouts – some expected its leader Timo Soini to be a formidable presidential candidate. But Soini is trailing with under 10 percent, according to latest media surveys, putting him behind at least one other presidential hopeful, Centre Party veteran Paavo Vayrynen. If none of the eight candidates gets more than half the votes a run-off between the top two follows two weeks later.
Voters may be reassured by Niinisto’s experience, analysts say, even though Finland’s president has little executive power beyond military and diplomatic affairs.
“Finns are worried about the current state of Europe, the state of the euro, and you can feel that there is still a bit of anger about bailouts. But people are also worried about their future,” said Juha Jokela, programme director for the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, an independent think-tank. Finland is struggling with high youth unemployment and prospects of slow economic growth ahead as traditional industries like paper decline.