Finland country profile

President: Sauli Niinisto

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto President Sauli Niinisto is credited with leading the economy towards growth in the 1990s

Sauli Niinisto won the presidential election of February 2012 to become the country's first conservative head of state in five decades.

He is the first president from the conservative National Coalition Party since 1956, and the first in 30 years from a party other than the Social Democrats.

The victory of the pro-Europe politician suggested to observers that voters wanted to keep the country in the eurozone despite misgivings over European Union bailouts.

Mr Niinisto is credited with leading Finland's economy towards growth following the collapse of the Soviet Union, during his tenure as finance minister from 1996 to 2001.

Finland's president has a largely ceremonial role with fewer powers now than in previous decades, and is not directly involved in daily politics. However, the head of state is seen as an important shaper of public opinion, takes the lead on non-EU matters of foreign policy and plays a role as a "brand ambassador" of Finland overseas.

Mr Niinisto succeeded President Tarja Halonen, who was elected as the country's first female president in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.

Prime minister: Jyrki Katainen

Mr Katainen's conservative National Coalition Party emerged as the largest single group in parliament in the April 2011 elections.

Finnish premier Jyrki Katainen Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen is a former teacher

He formed a grand coalition in June with six other parties from the left and centre, including the Social Democrats.

The new opposition is the populist True Finns party, which refused to join the government in protest at its support for a bailout for Portugal during the debt crisis.

Born in 1971, Mr Katainen worked as a teacher before being elected a councillor in 1993. He entered parliament in 1999 and became party leader in 2004.

He served as deputy prime minister and finance minister in the previous two Centre-Party-led coalition governments between 2007 and 2011.

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