Two pro-European candidates will face-off in the second round of the Finnish presidential election in two weeks’ time, quelling fears of the political establishment that the next stage would become an informal referendum on Europe. Sauli Niinistö, a pro-European former finance minister from the ruling National Coalition party, won 37 per cent of the vote on Sunday, as was widely expected. He is now the most likely candidate to become Finland’s 12th president since independence from Russia in 1917. Many in the pro-European coalition government had feared that Mr Niinistö could end up in a run-off against the eurosceptic Paavo Väyrynen from the Centre party, turning the second round into a straight fight between the county’s pro- and anti-Europe camps.
But on Sunday night Pekka Haavisto, a pro-European candidate from the Green League, grabbed second place winning 19 per cent of the vote compared with Väyrynen ‘s 18 per cent. Mr Haavisto will enter a run-off with Mr Väyrynen on February 5, as neither candidate won an absolute majority.
Officials said that the overall success of the pro-European camp showed that Finland still supported the European project, despite the growth of the populist anti-EU parties in the past year. “In Finland there’s a strong majority for a greater role for the EU globally,” said Erkki Tuomioja, the foreign minister. “The overwhelming picture is that the EU is still popular.”
Paavo Lipponen, the Social Democrat candidate and former prime minister, said: “Finns are still positive about the EU and the euro. We need to regain the confidence of the markets and Finland can contribute to solving these problems.”
Full Article: Pro-Europeans to face-off in Finnish poll – FT.com.