Finns trudged through thick snow and braved blizzards to vote for a new president on Sunday as polls indicated declining support for the front-runner, making a second round next month increasingly likely. Ex-finance minister Sauli Niinisto holds a clear lead in a field of eight candidates but surveys indicate he will not capture the required majority to win the first round. The vote comes as the Nordic country braces for cutbacks amid a European financial crisis that threatens the economy and the top credit rating of the eurozone member.
… The 63-year-old Niinisto, considered debonair in a country not known for social graces, said that if elected he would have a duty to ensure the government’s expected belt-tightening measures will be evenly spread among the population. The president has a largely ceremonial role and is not involved in daily politics, but is considered an important shaper of public opinion in the small Nordic country.
… Among those challenging Niinisto is Timo Soini, the stocky, plain-talking populist leader who has become the face of Finland’s growing doubts about the euro. His Finns party made stunning gains to win 19 percent of votes in parliamentary elections last year, sending shockwaves through Europe with demands that relatively well-off Finland stop supporting bailouts for debt-stricken eurozone members.
Full Article: Finnish presidential election headed for runoff.