Tsunami survivor Niinistoe wins Finland’s presidency
HELSINKI - Agence France-PresseSauli Niinistoe, a conservative pro-European who won Finland’s presidential election Feb. 5, romanced an ex-beauty queen and survived the Indian Ocean tsunami by climbing a tree.
But if it was his time as finance minister that earned Niinistoe widespread respect and credibility, it is the dramatic events in his personal life that may have endeared him to voters. The veteran politician lost his wife in 1995 to a tragic road accident. Nine years later, he narrowly escaped the tsunami in Thailand by climbing a tree with his younger son. Before marrying his party’s spokeswoman in 2009, Niinistoe was engaged to an ex-beauty queen turned parliamentarian, although that relationship ended a year after the engagement. The 63-year-old took 63 percent of the votes, compared to 37 percent for his rival, Greens candidate Pekka Haavisto. Niinisto will be the first president from the conservative National Coalition Party since 1956, and the first in 30 years from a party other than the center-left Social Democrats. He will replace Tarja Halonen, Finland’s only female head of state.