Sauli Niinistö

Sauli Väinämö Niinistö is the 12th and current President of Finland.

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Sauli Väinämö Niinistö (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈsɑuli ˈʋæinæmø ˈniːnistø]; born 24 August 1948) is the 12th and current President of Finland.

A lawyer by education, Niinistö was Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2003 and the National Coalition Party candidate in the 2006 presidential election. He served as the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland from 2007 to 2011 and has been the Honorary President of the European People's Party (EPP) since 2002.

Niinistö was the National Coalition Party candidate in the 2012 presidential election, beating Pekka Haavisto of the Green League with 62.6% of the vote in the decisive second round. Niinistö assumed office on 1 March 2012, and is the first president from the National Coalition Party since Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who left office in 1956.


Born in Salo, Niinistö ran his own law firm in Salo before entering national politics.

Niinistö served on the municipal council of Salo from 1977 to 1992 and was elected a Member of the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) from the district of Finland Proper in 1987. In 1994 he was chosen to lead the National Coalition Party as the party chairman and subsequently became Justice Minister in Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen's first cabinet in 1995.[1]

Switching portfolios, Niinistö became Finance Minister in 1996, a place he held also in Lipponen's second cabinet from 1999–2003. In both cabinets, the right-wing Niinistö was deputy to social democrat Lipponen, thus enabling the use of the term rainbow government in reference to Lipponen's two consecutive cabinets. As Finance Minister, Niinistö was known for his strict fiscal policy as well as his hobby of roller skating. He was the first Finn to buy with euro cash on 1 January 2002. Niinistö was urged by his party to stand for president in the elections of 2000, but he refused. Niinistö announced his gradual retirement from politics in 2001, a course of action he has not completely followed to date. He was succeeded that year by Ville Itälä as party leader. Upon the end of his term as a cabinet minister in 2003, Niinistö went on to become vice-chairman of the Board of Directors at the European Investment Bank.

In March 2005, Niinistö announced his candidacy for the Finnish Presidency. He represented the National Coalition Party, challenging the incumbent President Tarja Halonen. He qualified for the second round runoff (as one of the top two candidates in the first round), held on 29 January 2006, but was defeated by Tarja Halonen. Total funds for Niinistö's 2006 president campaign were circa 2,225,000 euros, including 492,864 euros and 717,191 euros contributions from the National Coalition Party. Financial declaration in 2006 was made more detailed in 2009 because of campaign finance controversies in Finland.[2][3]

In 2006, Niinistö announced that he was standing again for the Finnish parliamentary election. He said, however, that he had no plans to take any high-ranking political job like the prime ministership in the future.[4] He received 60,498 personal votes in the 2007 elections,[5] which is a record number of votes for one candidate in a Finnish parliamentary election. It was about 50% more than the earlier record of Hertta Kuusinen.[6] After the 2007 election, Niinistö decided to take the respected position of the Speaker of the Parliament. Niinistö is also the Honorary President of the European People's Party (EPP), having successfully negotiated the merger of the European Democrat Union (EDU) into the EPP in 2002.

Niinistö was elected as the president of the Football Association of Finland on 8 November 2009,[7] replacing Pekka Hämäläinen.[8]

Niinistö is supportive of tough fiscal reforms to plug the country's deficit and make sure it retains its triple-A credit rating.[9]

Niinistö was the National Coalition Party candidate for a second time in the 2012 presidential election. With 37.0% of the vote, he won the first round of the election and faced off against Pekka Haavisto of the Green League in the decisive second round.[10] He carried the second round with around 62.6% against Haavisto's 37.4%. Niinistö's margin of victory was larger than that of any previous directly elected president. He won a majority in 14 of the country's 15 electoral districts.[11] Niinistö's election budget was circa 1.2 million euros.[12]

Niinistö has pledged to establish a special task force aiming at preventing alienation among the young and expressed concern about the problems of sparsely populated rural areas. Niinistö stressed the significance of mutual understanding with the cabinet and Parliament. He gave an emotional speech in which he thanked not only those who backed him in the campaign, but also those who disagreed with him. Niinistö said that the differing views expressed should be taken into consideration in the work of the president.[13]

Personal life

Niinistö signing autographs in 2006.

Niinistö's first wife Marja-Leena Niinistö died in a car accident in 1995. Niinistö married his second wife Jenni Haukio (born 1977) in January 2009.[14]

Niinistö has a Boston Terrier named Lennu.[15]

While a cabinet minister, Niinistö, a widower, was romantically involved with MP Tanja Karpela, a former beauty queen and later Minister of Culture. Karpela's Centre Party was in opposition and Niinistö was considered the second-most influential man in government. Under close press scrutiny ever since, in 2003 Karpela and Niinistö announced their engagement, which was however called off in 2004.

Niinistö is the uncle of Ville Niinistö, a Green League MP from Turku, leader of the Green League and Minister of the Environment.[16]

In Finland, Niinistö is also remembered as one of the survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He escaped the ensuing tsunami by climbing up a utility pole with his son Matias in Khao Lak, Thailand.[17]

Presidential inauguration 1 March, 2012


National decorations

  • Finland : Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose of Finland
  • Finland : Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Finland
  • Finland : Grand Cross of the Order of the Cross of Liberty

Foreign decorations

  • Norway : Royal Norwegian Order of Merit
  • Norway : Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav[18]
  • Sweden : Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim [19]
  • Italy : Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
  • Greece : Order of the Phoenix (Greece)
  • Luxembourg : Order of Orange-Nassau


  1. "Edustajamatrikkeli". Eduskunta.{hnro}=223&{kieli}=su&{haku}=kaikki.
  2. Sauli Niinistö Vuoden 2006 presidentinvaalin vaalirahoitusilmoitus 30.3.2006, addition 18.9.2009
  3. Helsingin Sanomat 17.9.2009 A4
  4. Niinistö Will Not Seek Other High-Ranking Posts | News | YLE Uutiset. Retrieved on 2012-03-02.
  5. Candidates elected Whole country. Retrieved on 2012-03-02.
  6. "?People of a special mould"? – Pirkko Kotila. Retrieved on 2012-03-02.
  7. "Sauli Niinistöstä Palloliiton puheenjohtaja". Football Association of Finland.
  8. Niinistö neuer Präsident. Retrieved on 2012-03-02.
  9. "Pro-EU Niinisto wins Finnish presidency". The Chicago Tribune. 2012-02-05.,0,2197085.story. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  10. "Presidential elections: Niinistö, Haavisto headed for second round". 2012-01-22. Retrieved 2012-01-22.
  11. "Sauli Niinistö is Finland's 12th president". 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  12. Niinistö keräsi toisella kierroksella yli 170 000 euroa – Sauli Niinistö – Politiikka. Retrieved on 2012-03-02.
  13. "Niinistö pledges to fight youth alienation". 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  14. "Niinistö yllätti kokoomuslaiset ”housut kintuissa”".
  15. Niinistön Lennusta julkkis: Tällainen on koiran luonne. Retrieved on 2012-03-02.
  16. Kangasniemi, Sanna (20 February 2009). "Äiti ja isä vihreä" (in Finnish). Helsingin Sanomat (Ja kun vuonna 2000 tuli aika valita puolue, ei setä Sauli Niinistön kokoomus pärjännyt.). Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  17. Hämäläinen, Antti (20 September 2007). "Niinistö puhuu nyt tsunamista" (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat (Niinistö lähti Matiaksen kanssa juoksemaan pois rannalta ja he pelastautuivat betoniseen sähkötolppaan sadan metrin päässä rannasta.). Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  18. Noblesse et Royautés (French), State visit of President of Finland in Norway, 2012, Photo
  19. State visit of Finland in Sweden 2012, Photo of presidential and royal couples