Finnish voters have elected Sauli Niinistö from the moderate conservative National Coalition Party as the nation's 12th president in a decisive second round on Sunday.
The 63-year-old former finance minister defeated the Green’s Pekka Haavisto by 62.6 per cent to 37.4 per cent.
He becomes the first non-Social Democrat head of state in Finland since 1982 and the first to be drawn from the ranks of the National Coalition since 1956.
Niinistö won a majority in 14 of the country's 15 electoral districts. The only exception was in the autonomous Åland Islands district. In Helsinki the two men were evenly matched with barely 1000 votes between them. Niinistö’s largest lead was in Vaasa where he won with 72.3 per cent.
Slightly over 4.4 million people were eligible to vote. At 68.8 per cent, voter turnout for the second round was the lowest in a presidential election since 1950.
In the first round two weeks ago, when voters were choosing from a field of eight candidates, the turnout was 72.8 per cent.
Niinistö will take over as president from Tarja Halonen on March 1.
Even though constitutional changes have curbed presidential powers, the head of state steers foreign policy in collaboration with the government, appoints top civil servants such as the central bank governor and commands the armed forces.
He’s a shaper of public opinion at home and an ambassador of Finland in the wider world.