Sauli Niinistö

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Sauli Niinistö
President of Finland Sauli Niinistö 2019.jpg
Niinistö in 2019
12th President of Finland
Assumed office
1 March 2012
Prime MinisterJyrki Katainen
Alexander Stubb
Juha Sipilä
Antti Rinne
Sanna Marin
Preceded byTarja Halonen
Speaker of the Parliament of Finland
In office
24 April 2007 – 27 April 2011
Preceded byTimo Kalli
Succeeded byBen Zyskowicz
Minister of Finance
In office
2 February 1996 – 17 April 2003
Prime MinisterPaavo Lipponen
Preceded byIiro Viinanen
Succeeded byAntti Kalliomäki
Deputy Prime Minister of Finland
In office
13 April 1995 – 30 August 2001
Prime MinisterPaavo Lipponen
Preceded byPertti Salolainen
Succeeded byVille Itälä
Minister of Justice[1]
In office
13 April 1995 – 2 February 1996
Prime MinisterPaavo Lipponen
Preceded byAnneli Jäätteenmäki
Succeeded byKari Häkämies
Leader of the National Coalition Party
In office
Preceded byPertti Salolainen
Succeeded byVille Itälä
Member of the Finnish Parliament
In office
21 March 2007 – 19 April 2011
In office
21 March 1987 – 18 March 2003
ConstituencyHelsinki (1999–2003)
Southwest Finland (1987–1999)
Personal details
Sauli Väinämö Niinistö

(1948-08-24) 24 August 1948 (age 73)
Salo, Southwest Finland, Finland
Political party
Marja-Leena Alanko
(m. 1974; died 1995)

(m. 2009)
RelativesVille Niinistö (nephew)
Alma materUniversity of Turku
WebsiteOfficial website
Military service
Allegiance Finland
Branch/serviceSuomen Maavoimien tunnus.svg Finnish Army[2]
RankKapteeni kauluslaatta.svg Captain

Sauli Väinämö Niinistö (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈsɑu̯li ˈʋæi̯næmø ˈniːnistø]; born 24 August 1948) is a Finnish politician who has been serving as the 12th president of Finland since 1 March 2012.

A lawyer by education, Niinistö was Chairman of the National Coalition Party from 1994 to 2001, Minister of Justice from 1995 to 1996, Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2003, Deputy Prime Minister from 1995 to 2001 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.

Niinistö was the NCP candidate in the 2012 presidential election, defeating 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 NCP president 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. NCP and the Christian Democrat Party supported his candidacy. He won re-election in the first round on 28 January 2018 with 62.7% of the vote and his second term began on 1 February 2018.

Early life and education[edit]

Niinistö was born in Salo in 1948. His parents were the circulation manager of Salon Seudun Sanomat Väinö Niinistö (1911–1991) and nurse Hilkka Niinistö, née Heimo (1916–2014).[3] Niinistö's godfather was Fjalar Nordell [fi], founder of Salora.

Niinistö graduated from the Salon normaalilyseo high school in 1967, after which he went to study at the University of Turku. From there he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1974.[4]


Niinistö ran his own law firm in Salo between 1978-88 before entering national politics.[5]

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.[6]

Switching portfolios, Niinistö became Finance Minister in 1996, continuing in Lipponen's second cabinet from 1999 to 2003.[7] In both administrations, Niinistö was Deputy Prime Minister under social democrat Lipponen. As Finance Minister, Niinistö was known for his strict fiscal policy.[8] 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 he refused to. 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.[clarification needed] His financial declaration in 2006 was made more detailed in 2009 because of controversies.[9][10]

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.[11] He received 60,563 votes in the 2007 elections,[12] a record in a Finnish parliamentary election; it was about 21% more than the 1948 record of Hertta Kuusinen.[13] 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,[14] replacing Pekka Hämäläinen.


President Sauli Niinistö leaves Parliament after receiving his presidency with outgoing President Tarja Halonen in January 2012.

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.[15] 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.[16] Niinistö's election budget was circa 1.2 million euros.[17]

After becoming the President, 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.[18]

In May 2017, Niinistö announced that he would seek re-election in the 2018 presidential election, running as an independent candidate.[19] His candidacy was soon supported by the National Coalition Party and Christian Democrats.[20][21] In the election, Niinistö received 62.7% of the votes, becoming the first president in Finland to get elected on the first round of popular vote.[22]

Foreign policy[edit]

Niinistö with former US Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis in November 2017 in Helsinki
Niinistö with Russian President Vladimir Putin in August 2019
Niinistö meeting US President Donald Trump in August 2017

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.[23]

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,[24] 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."[25]

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."[26]

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."[27] On 16 July 2018, Niinistö officially hosted U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Putin for the US-Russia Summit in Helsinki. Niinistö was involved 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York on 25 September 2018. President Niinistö spoke about Russia and Baltic nations affairs at the UNGA 2018.

Niinistö met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on 26 October 2016 in Tehran, Iran.[citation needed]

In April 2017 Niinistö supported One-China policy.[28] Niinistö visited China on 13–14 January 2019 and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, they went through common issues between Finland-China to raise friendship and partnership. Xi Jinping and Niinistö jointly launched the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports.


As the President of Finland, Niinistö holds the power of pardon for individual criminal sentences and related sanctions. In 2019 and 2020, he did not pardon anyone,[29] and has pardoned on average only three people per year. In comparison, his predecessor Tarja Halonen reached a figure of 20 pardons per year on average.[30] Niinistö has explained that he is in good agreement with the policy of the Supreme Court of Finland, which has always processed the case first before the President sees it. Niinistö has supported the abolition of the presidential pardon in his presidential campaigns, calling the institution an outdated "royal tradition".[31]

Personal life[edit]

Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio

Niinistö married his first wife, Marja-Leena (née Alanko), in 1974 and they had two sons. Marja-Leena was killed in a car crash in January 1995. Niinistö wrote about the time after the death of his first wife in his book Viiden vuoden yksinäisyys (translation: "Five years of loneliness").

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. In 2003 Karpela and Niinistö announced their engagement, which they ended in 2004.[32]

In 2005, Niinistö met Jenni Haukio, who at the time worked for the National Coalition Party and interviewed Niinistö for the Nykypäivä magazine.[33] They later became romantically involved but kept the relationship secret from the public until the wedding on 3 January 2009.[34] In October 2017, the couple announced that they were expecting a child, and they subsequently had a son, who was born in February 2018.[35][36][37] In 2017 Niinistös and Haukios dog Lennu went viral across the world.[citation needed] Niinistö is the uncle of Ville Niinistö, a Green League MP from Turku, former leader of the Green League and former Minister of the Environment.[38] Whereas, ex-Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö is not related, and their family names have different origins.[39]

Niinistö survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He escaped the ensuing tsunami by climbing a utility pole with his son in Khao Lak, Thailand.[40]

Niinistö is a devout Christian and member of the Lutheran Church.[41][42]

Niinistö enjoys roller skating in his spare time, and in the winter he often plays ice hockey.

Beside his native language, Niinistö also speaks English and Russian.


Niinistö opposes the president's right to pardon prisoners and only pardoned one prisoner during his first year as president.[43] He opposes same-sex marriage but thinks that same-sex couples should have the right to adoption and a common surname.[44] He supports euthanasia under certain circumstances.[45] Niinistö's opinion on Finland's possible NATO membership was unclear for a long time, but he later said that Finland does not need to consider NATO membership during his presidency.[citation needed]

Popular culture[edit]

Niinistö appears as an animated character in the political satire TV series The Autocrats.[46]


Coat of Arms of Sauli Niinistö
Coat of arms of Sauli Niinistö.svg
ArmigerSauli Niinistö
Motto"Juurista voimaa"
("Strength from the Roots")



Honorary Doctorates[edit]


  1. ^ "Council of State - Ministers of Justice". Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Curriculum Vitae - Sauli Väinämö Niinistö". President of the Republic of Finland. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  3. ^ Sauli Niinistö (in Finnish)
  4. ^ Häikiö, Martti: Sauli Niinistö Kansallisbiografia-verkkojulkaisu. 4.9.2015. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura. Viitattu 1.10.2017.
  5. ^ Sauli Niinistö (in Finnish)
  6. ^ "Edustajamatrikkeli". Eduskunta. Archived from the original on 12 February 2012.
  7. ^ "Council of State - Ministers of Finance". Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  8. ^ "President slams government's "politics of illusion"". Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  9. ^ Sauli Niinistö Vuoden 2006 presidentinvaalin vaalirahoitusilmoitus 30 March 2006, addition 18 September 2009
  10. ^ Helsingin Sanomat 17 September 2009 A4
  11. ^ Niinistö Will Not Seek Other High-Ranking Posts | News | YLE Uutiset. Retrieved on 2 March 2012.
  12. ^ Candidates elected Whole country. Retrieved on 2 March 2012.
  13. ^ "?People of a special mould"? – Pirkko Kotila. Retrieved on 2 March 2012.
  14. ^ "Sauli Niinistöstä Palloliiton puheenjohtaja". Football Association of Finland. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Presidential elections: Niinistö, Haavisto headed for second round". 22 January 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Sauli Niinistö is Finland's 12th president". 5 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  17. ^ Niinistö keräsi toisella kierroksella yli 170 000 euroa – Sauli Niinistö – Politiikka. Retrieved on 2 March 2012.
  18. ^ "Niinistö pledges to fight youth alienation". 5 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  19. ^ "Sauli Niinistö hakee jatkokautta presidenttinä – mittauttaa suosionsa yhdistyksen avulla" (in Finnish). Yle. 29 May 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  20. ^ "Petteri Orpo twiittasi heti Niinistön jatkokausi-ilmoituksen jälkeen: "Kokoomus on täysillä mukana"" (in Finnish). Yle. 29 May 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  21. ^ "Kristillisdemokraatit tukee presidentinvaaleissa Sauli Niinistöä" (in Finnish). Yle. 19 August 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Sauli Niinistön voitto on todella historiallinen – "Pitää olla aikamoinen superhessu"" (in Finnish). Helsingin Uutiset. 29 January 2018. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  23. ^ Niinistö och Putin talade Business HBL 13 February 2013 (in Swedish)
  24. ^ Kelly, Jeff Mason (26 March 2014). "U.S., EU to work together on tougher Russia sanctions". Reuters. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  25. ^ Russia Warns Sweden and Finland Against NATO Membership | Defense News |
  26. ^ "Finland's Next Prime Minister Backs NATO Membership". 14 June 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  27. ^ "President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö's New Year's Speech on 1 January 2015 - The President of the Republic of Finland". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  28. ^ "Jättiläispandojen tulo Suomeen varmistui – "Pidämme Kiinan kansallisen aarteen kunniassa"". Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  29. ^ "HS: Presidentti Niinistö ei poikkeuksellisesti armahtanut yhtäkään rikoksesta tuomittua". 23 December 2019.
  30. ^ "Presidentti Niinistöltä ei tippunut rikollisille armoa: 17 anomusta, pyöreät 0 armahdusta - Myös jalkajousimurhaaja anoi armoa".
  31. ^ "STT: Sauli Niinistö luopuisi presidentin armahdusoikeudesta".
  32. ^ "Sauli Niinistö vihittiin Porissa" (in Finnish). Yle. 2 January 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  33. ^ "Sauli Niinistön ja Jenni Haukion rakkaustarina: Suhde pysyi vuosia salassa". Ilta-Sanomat. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  34. ^ "Niinistö yllätti kokoomuslaiset "housut kintuissa"".
  35. ^ "Sauli Niinistön ja Jenni Haukion lapsi on syntynyt". Ilta-Sanomat. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  36. ^ Simola, Inka (9 October 2017). "Some sekosi Sauli Niinistön ja Jenni Haukion lapsiuutisesta: "Tätä olemme hiljaa odottaneet"". Me Naiset. Archived from the original on 31 January 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  37. ^ "Baby Announcement for President and First Lady". News Now Finland. 9 October 2017. Archived from the original on 31 January 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  38. ^ Kangasniemi, Sanna (20 February 2009). "Äiti ja isä vihreä". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Ja kun vuonna 2000 tuli aika valita puolue, ei setä Sauli Niinistön kokoomus pärjännyt. Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2011.CS1 maint: location (link)
  39. ^ "Tämä domain on varattu |".
  40. ^ Hämäläinen, Antti (20 September 2007). "Niinistö puhuu nyt tsunamista". Ilta-Sanomat (in Finnish). Niinistö lähti Matiaksen kanssa juoksemaan pois rannalta ja he pelastautuivat betoniseen sähkötolppaan sadan metrin päässä rannasta. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  41. ^ "Radio Dei kysyi ehdokkailta Jeesuksesta".
  42. ^ "Kuuluuko tasavallan presidentin toivottaa uudenvuodenpuheessaan Jumalan siunausta? Näin eri presidentit ovat vuorollaan toimineet". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 30 December 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  43. ^ "Yle: Niinistö armahti vain yhden tuomitun". Helsingin Sanomat. 17 January 2013.
  44. ^ "Niinistö Sauli - Helsingin Sanomien vaalikone - Presidentinvaalit 2012 -". 29 December 2011. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011.
  45. ^ "Yle: Presidentti Niinistö kannattaa eutanasiaa". Helsingin Sanomat. 26 May 2012.
  46. ^ YLE: Itse valtiaat nauroi 2000-luvun poliitikoille – nämä hahmot olivat Suomen huipputehtävissä 20 vuotta sitten (in Finnish)
  47. ^ "Modtagere af danske dekorationer". (in Danish). 12 December 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  48. ^ "УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №396/2021". Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  49. ^ "U of M to confer honorary degree on Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland". University Relations. 19 September 2017.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Pertti Salolainen
Leader of the National Coalition Party
Succeeded by
Ville Itälä
Political offices
Preceded by
Pertti Salolainen
Deputy Prime Minister of Finland
Succeeded by
Ville Itälä
Preceded by
Anneli Jäätteenmäki
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Kari Häkämies
Preceded by
Iiro Viinanen
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Antti Kalliomäki
Preceded by
Timo Kalli
Speaker of the Parliament
Succeeded by
Ben Zyskowicz
Preceded by
Tarja Halonen
President of Finland
Order of precedence
First Order of precedence of Finland
Succeeded by
Martti Ahtisaari
as Former President