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Finland’s Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (centre party) has ruled himself out of the 2012 presidential election already. Vanhanen told the newspaper Itä-Savo that he doesn’t want to be president and had already experienced one presidential election (the last one in 2006 where he ran and was eliminated in the first round after coming in third place with 18,6% of the vote). Vanhanen did however state that he was aiming for a third term as prime minister.
This leaves potentially both Centre and the Social Democrats without obvious candidates for the 2012 elections, although it is obviously still a long way off and the SDP will get a new chairman this summer.
Their main rivals, the National Coalition party Kokoomus do however have one obvious candidate, Sauli Niinistö. Niinistö came second in 2006 with 48,2% of the vote in the second round against Tarja Halonen. This was a respectable result considering highly popular Halonen got 49,4% in the first round and before that took place, people were tipping the election to be already settled in one round. Since then, Niinistö has been elected to the Finnish parliament in 2007′s election, getting the most personal votes ever in a parliamentary election, and become speaker of parliament. He’s seen to be popular and easily the favourite right now to become Kokoomus’ first president since Paasikivi who left office in 1956. Still, if a week is a long time in politics, 4 years is surely an eternity.