Finland's president poised for new six-year term after crushing poll victory

Anti-EU candidate Laura Huhtasaari has vowed to'defend Finland in the presidential election

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto clinched an overwhelming victory in the first round of elections on Sunday.

With all ballots counted, Niinisto had 62.7 percent of the vote, while his leading rival, Pekka Haavisto of the Greens, had 12.4 percent.

Other candidates, including that of the Social Democrats, the party of Mr. Niinisto's predecessor, got less than 5 percent.

Niinisto, 69, a former finance minister and parliament speaker, has been a highly popular president since he took office in 2012. He told Finnish national broadcaster YLE that Niinisto "is the republic's new president with this result".

Niinisto will need a majority of votes to win re-election and prevent a runoff, the AP reported.

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Eurosceptic politicians, Laura Huhtasaari from the nationalist Finns Party and independent Paavo Vayrynen, won 6.9 percent and 6.2 percent of votes, respectively.

Finland's president designs the blueprint for the country's foreign and security policy together with the government.

In 2012, he won the presidency as a candidate for the centre-right National Coalition Party, but he campaigned as an independent in this election. Yet while the president remains active in foreign policy, including holding the chairmanship of the Arctic Council since May 2017, presidential power over domestic policy has ebbed steadily since the final throes of the Cold War.

Pro-EU President Niinisto was instrumental in maintaining ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite Finland backing western economic sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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