Sauli Väinämö Niinistö (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈsɑuli ˈʋæinæmø ˈniːnistø], ) is a Finnish politician and the 12th President of Finland, in office since 2012.
A lawyer by education, Niinistö was Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2003 and the National Coalition Party (NCP) 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 since 2002.
|12th President of Finland|
1 March 2012
|Prime Minister||Jyrki Katainen
|Preceded by||Tarja Halonen|
|Speaker of Parliament|
24 April 2007 – 27 April 2011
|Preceded by||Timo Kalli|
|Succeeded by||Ben Zyskowicz|
|Chairman of the European Democrat Union|
|Minister of Finance|
2 February 1996 – 16 April 2003
|Prime Minister||Paavo Lipponen|
|Preceded by||Iiro Viinanen|
|Succeeded by||Antti Kalliomäki|
|Deputy Prime Minister of Finland|
13 April 1995 – 30 August 2001
|Prime Minister||Paavo Lipponen|
|Preceded by||Pertti Salolainen|
|Succeeded by||Ville Itälä|
|Minister of Justice|
13 April 1995 – 1 February 1996
|Prime Minister||Paavo Lipponen|
|Preceded by||Anneli Jäätteenmäki|
|Succeeded by||Kari Häkämies|
|Chairman of the National Coalition Party|
|Chair of the City Council of Salo|
|Member of the Parliament of Finland|
21 March 2007 – 19 April 2011
21 March 1987 – 18 March 2003
|Member of the City Council of Salo|
|Member of the City Board of Salo|
|Born||Sauli Väinämö Niinistö
24 August 1948
|Political party||National Coalition Party|
(m. 1974; her death 1995)
|Relatives||Ville Niinistö (nephew)|
|Alma mater||University of Turku|
|Service/branch||Finnish Army Reserve|
Niinistö was the NCP 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. In May 2017, Niinistö announced that he would seek re-election in the 2018 presidential election, running as an independent candidate.
Niinistö was born in Salo in 1948. He ran his own law firm there before entering national politics.
Niinistö served on the municipal council of Salo from 1977 to 1992 and was elected a Member of the Parliament of Finland from the district of Finland Proper in 1987. In 1994 he was chosen to lead the NCP as party chairman and subsequently became Justice Minister in Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s first cabinet in 1995.
Switching portfolios, Niinistö became Finance Minister in 1996, continuing in Lipponen’s second cabinet from 1999 to 2003. In both administrations, Niinistö was Deputy Prime Minister under social democrat Lipponen. As Finance Minister, Niinistö was known for his strict fiscal policy. He was the first Finn to make a purchase with euros on 1 January 2002. Niinistö was urged by his party to stand as a candidate in the 2000 presidential election, but refused. He announced his gradual retirement from politics in 2001, and he was succeeded that year by Ville Itälä as party leader. After the end of his term as a cabinet minister in 2003, Niinistö became vice-chairman of the board of directors at the European Investment Bank.
In March 2005, Niinistö announced his candidacy for the 2006 presidential election. He represented the NCP, 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 lost to Halonen. The costs of Niinistö’s campaign were circa 2,225,000 euros, including 492,864 euros and 717,191 euros contributions from NCP. His financial declaration in 2006 was made more detailed in 2009 because of controversies.
In 2006, Niinistö announced that he was standing again for the 2007 parliamentary election. He said, however, that he had no plans to take any high-ranking political job such as the prime ministership in the future. He received 60,498 votes in the 2007 elections, a record in a Finnish parliamentary election; it was about 50% more than the earlier record of Hertta Kuusinen. After the 2007 election, Niinistö decided to accept the position of the Speaker of the Parliament. Niinistö negotiated the merger of the European Democrat Union (EDU) into the EPP in 2002 and became its Honorary President.
Niinistö was elected as the president of the Football Association of Finland on 8 November 2009, replacing Pekka Hämäläinen.
Niinistö is supportive of fiscal reforms to plug the country’s deficit and make sure it retains its AAA credit rating.
Niinistö was the NCP candidate for a second time in the 2012 presidential election. With 37.0% of the vote, he won the election’s first round and faced off against Haavisto of the Green League in the decisive second round. 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 15 electoral districts. Niinistö’s election budget was circa 1.2 million euros.
Niinistö pledged to establish a special task force aiming at preventing alienation among the country’s youth and expressed concern about the problems of sparsely populated rural areas. Niinistö stressed the significance of mutual understanding with the cabinet and Parliament. His acceptance speech thanked those who backed him in the campaign and those who disagreed with him. Niinistö said that the differing views expressed should be taken into consideration.
Niinistö’s first wife, Marja-Leena Niinistö, died in a car crash in January 1995.
While a cabinet minister, Niinistö, as 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, in 2003 Karpela and Niinistö announced their engagement, which they ended in 2004.
Niinistö later married Jenni Haukio (born 1977) on 3 January 2009.
Niinistö is the uncle of Ville Niinistö, a Green League MP from Turku, leader of the Green League and former Minister of the Environment.
In Finland, Niinistö is known as a survivor of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He escaped the ensuing tsunami by climbing a utility pole with his son Matias in Khao Lak, Thailand. Niinistö is a Christian.
At the same time as the sanctions against Russia, mainly caused by the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and Russia’s response in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Niinistö said that the focus should be on easing tensions and increasing understanding between Europe and Russia. He stated that Finland should serve as a broker between Russia and Europe. He also stated that “Russia understands that the conflict in Ukraine has generated debate in Finland over this country’s own security policy. It’s important that President Putin understands Finland’s position on NATO membership in this debate. Finland accepts that Russia is working to find a solution to the acute conflict in Ukraine, but it needs to do more.”As President, Niinistö visited Russia and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2013 to promote bilateral trade (e.g. Shell, Cargotec, YIT). He discussed ice hockey and business, but not human rights issues or the selling of Russian military equipment to Syria and its transport through Finland.
The Foreign minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov used a statement of Niinistö in his arguments about future choices for the next Prime Minister of Finland, saying, “‘Does Northern Europe need this? How Russia will react?’ President Niinistö asked these questions with the subtext. He knows that the answer is negative: nobody needs this,” Lavrov added “President Niinistö realizes that what happened in Ukraine is impossible in Finland.”
In his New Years Speech 2015 Niinistö stated: ” We condemned Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea as soon as it happened and then condemned Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine. We have done this in the EU context but have also made this clear in our direct contacts with Russia. We condemn any illegal occupations, illegal use of force or attempts to limit the sovereignty of independent nations. Such actions never achieve anything but danger and increased tension. While power may have once grown out of the barrel of a gun, these days it leads to nothing but chaos.”
Sauli Niinistö met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on 26 October 2016 in Tehran, Iran.
In April 2017 President Niinistö supported One-China policy. According to China this means that Finland can have no relations with Taiwan.
- Finland: Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose of Finland with collar
- Finland: Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Finland
- Finland: Grand Cross of the Order of the Cross of Liberty
- Austria: Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
- Estonia: Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana with collar
- Denmark: Knight of the Order of the Elephant (April 2013)
- Iceland: Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon
- Italy: Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- Lithuania: Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great with Golden Chain
- Luxembourg: Grand Cross of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau (May 2016)
- Poland: Knight of the Order of White Eagle (March 2015)
- Netherlands: Order of Orange-Nassau
- Norway: Royal Norwegian Order of Merit
- Norway: Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav (October 2012)
- Sweden: Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (2012)
- Sweden: Recipient of the 70th Birthday Badge Medal of King Carl XVI Gustaf (30 April 2016)