Finns to elect president with incumbent seen scoring win

FILE - This is a Dec. 16, 2017 file photo of Independent candidate and current President Sauli Niinisto campaigns in a shopping centre in Kouvola, Finland, The first round of the Finnish Presidential election takes place on Sunday Jan. 28. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP)
Campaign posters for various Finnish presidential candidates adorn a pedestrian walkway in Helsinki, Finland, Friday Jan. 26, 2018. The first round of the Finnish Presidential election takes place on upcoming Sunday Jan. 28. (Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP)

HELSINKI — Finns are voting for a new president in an election that's expected to see the highly popular incumbent score a win during Sunday's first round.

President Sauli Niinisto, a 69-year-old lawyer and former finance minister, is seeking another six-year term to head the European Union nation of 5.5 million. His pragmatic style clearly appeals to the majority of Finns, and the latest polls by the largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat and national public broadcaster YLE predict him winning with between 58 and 63 percent of the votes respectively.

That's far ahead of his closest rival Pekka Haavisto of the Greens, the runner-up in the 2012 election, who is expected to garner some 14 percent of votes.

Of Niinisto's seven rival candidates — whom local media have dubbed the "Seven Dwarves" — perhaps the most striking is the populist Finns Party's Laura Huhtasaari, who has been running on an anti-immigration and anti-European Union platform resemble the presidential campaign of France's Marie Le Pen. Huhtasaari has failed to gather more than some six percent support in polls.

Niinisto runs as an independent candidate with no associations to the conservative National Coalition Party he earlier chaired to distance himself from party politics.

The role of president designs the blueprint for the Nordic country's foreign and security policy together with the government. As the head of state, the president is the key foreign policy player in Finland particularly on issues outside the EU. The president also acts as the supreme commander of military forces and can veto legislation.

To most Finns, the president's key task is to assure friendly ties with both neighboring Russia, which shares a 1,340 kilometer (833-mile) border with Finland, and the West, particularly the United States.

Judged by his vast popularity, Niinisto has seemingly handled well this fine balancing act — a long-running tradition in the Nordic nation that doesn't belong to NATO. Finland joined the EU in 1995.

If no candidate achieves a majority, the top two will face each other in a runoff on Feb. 11.

Must Read

Canadian judge denies bail to alleged Yahoo hacker

Apr 11, 2017

A judge has denied bail to a Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails

Ex-Gitmo inmate gets apology, millions from Canada

Jul 7, 2017

A Canadian official says a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S....

'Veep' creator: I could never reach 'giddy...

Sep 8, 2017

In 'Veep'-creator Armando Iannucci's second feature film, 'The Death of Stalin,' some quite funny...

Suspect in Canada attack entered US from Mexico...

Oct 4, 2017

A Somali refugee charged with ramming his car into a Canadian policeman, stabbing him and then...

Bombardier Inc. to partner with Airbus on C...

Oct 17, 2017

Canadian plane maker Bombardier has a sold a majority stake in its C Series passenger jet business...

People also read these

Canada tests lower age for pot legalization

May 18, 2017

The most controversial thing about Canada's move to legalize marijuana nationwide may be setting...

Trudeau defends multimillion payout to ex-Gitmo...

Jul 8, 2017

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending his government's apology and...

Dog's YouTube 'candidacy' is a big hit in...

Sep 13, 2017

One of the candidates in for mayor in St. John's, Newfoundland, has become a celebrity - the one...

'Florida Project' shines a bright light on hidden...

Oct 4, 2017

Sean Baker's 'The Florida Project' takes place in a blindingly purple, low-budget motel named the...

Family freed returns to Canada, says 1 child...

Oct 14, 2017

Former Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle says the Haqqani network in Afghanistan killed his infant...

Sign up now!