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Sauli Niinistö is Finland's 12th president

Finnish voters elected National Coalition Party candidate Sauli Niinistö as the nation's 12th president in a decisive second round on Sunday. Niinistö's victory came with 62.6% of the vote to 37.4% for his rival, Green League candidate Pekka Haavisto.

Kuva: Jukka Lintinen / YLE

The win by the National Coalition’s Sauli Niinistö ends a 30-year era of Social Democratic Party presidents in Finland.

Niinistö won a majority in 14 of the country's 15 electoral districts. The only district in which Haavisto won was Åland where the vote split 60 - 40 in his favour. Locally, the closest battle was in Helsinki where Niinistö won 50.3%. His largest lead at 72.3% was in Vaasa.

Green League candidate Pekka Haavisto conceded defeat in his bid for the presidency when about 80% of the vote had been counted and it was evident that Niinistö had polled over 60%.

Despite a final spurt in Haavisto's campaign, support simply did not grow enough to bring him a victory. Even so, Haavisto said he was satisfied with the count.

"From the summer's five percent it is a good rise. Over a million people gave me their backing."

Congratulations from Halonen

President Tarja Halonen phoned Sauli Niinistö on Sunday evening to present her congratulations on winning the election.

The President and her husband, Dr. Pentti Arajärvi, invited Niinistö and his wife to the presidential residence Mäntyniemi on Monday.

The President's Office also said Halonen made a call Sunday evening to the defeated candidate Pekka Haavisto.

Record low turnout

At 68.9%, voter turnout for the second round was the lowest in a presidential election since 1950.

YLE’s election expert Sami Borg notes that the second round's election day voting was exceptionally quiet. Advance ballots were cast by 36% of voters, while only 33% turned out for the official election day.

Borg says it looks as if this may be the first time that the turnout for a two-round presidential election is lower than that of parliamentary elections. Turnout for the last parliamentary elections was 70.5 percent.

In the first round two weeks ago, when voters were choosing from a field of eight candidates, the turnout was 72.8%.

Just slightly over 4.4 million people were eligible to vote in the election.

Niinistö will take over as president from Tarja Halonen on March 1.