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Tarja Halonen

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Tarja Kaarina Halonen (born December 24, 1943) is a Finnish lawyer and politician. She has been the President of Finland since 2000.

Halonen graduated from the University of Helsinki in 1968 and has a Master of Laws degree. She married her long time common-law partner, Dr. Pentti Araj䲶i, after she was elected president.

President Tarja Halonen on a state visit to Brazil
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President Tarja Halonen on a state visit to Brazil
Contents

Highlights of political career

Biography

Tarja Halonen was born on 24 December 1943 in Helsinki in the district of Kallio, which has traditionally been a working-class quarter. She obtained a Master of Laws from the University of Helsinki in 1968. She served as the social secretary and organisation secretary of the National Union of Students in Finland in 19691970 and partly thanks to this she obtained a position as the lawyer of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions for the years 19701974. She joined the Social Democratic Party in 1971.

In 1974 Prime Minister Kalevi Sorsa took Halonen as a parliament secretary and she became acquainted with the inner circles of the political world. After this she served in various positions of trust. She was chosen in 1975 to the representatives of Osuusliike Elanto, a position she retained until her election as President. At the same time she served in the Helsinki city council; she left this post in 1996. In 1979 she was elected to the Finnish Parliament, of which she was a member until 2000. In 19801981 she also served as the chairman of SETA (Seksuaalinen Tasavertaisuus RY, Sexual Equality), the main gay and lesbian rights organisation in Finland. In the parliament her first actual position of trust was working as a chairman of the social committee of the parliament in 19841987. From this position Halonen rose to the status of Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of Health in 1987 which was followed by the choice for Minister of Nordic Cooperation to term 19891991, the same year Halonen also was chosen as the chairman of the government of the international solidarity foundation, Halonen also left this task when she was elected president. In 19901991 she was the minister of justice and in 1995 until her election as the president she served as the minister of foreign affairs.

The way to presidency

When president Martti Ahtisaari informed that he would not run for a second term in office in 2000, the Social Democrats began to look for a new candidate. The party concluded that the woman candidate would be the best method to win the election. In the previous elections Elisabeth Rehn came very close to victory. Halonen, who then was the minister of foreign affairs, was significantly more popular than Paavo Lipponen, the party chairman.

At first Halonen was, however, only on the fourth place in the polls. This was partly due to the fact that Halonen spent much time abroad as a minister of foreign affairs. This, however, also meant that she got a lot of visibility in the media. Backed by an enthusiastic and experienced campaign organisation, her popularity grew steadily. Her successful handling of the Finnish presidency of the European Union in the autumn of 1999 was also fresh in people's memory.

In the first round of the elections, Halonen got the most votes but failed to gain the 50% needed to win directly. In the second round, she narrowly defeated her opponent, the former prime minister Esko Aho of the Centre Party, becoming Finland's first female president.

Presidency

The new constitution adopted just before Halonen became president restricted her authority. But it soon became clear that she would still take an active role in governing the country. This was evident in e.g. the nomination of her own candidate to the board of directors of the Bank of Finland instead of politically chosen candidate.

Halonen married her long-time common-law spouse Pentti Araj䲶i in August 2000. While in Finland her relationship was not an issue, the marriage clarified the position of Dr. Araj䲶i abroad.

Despite her narrow election victory, Halonen became one of the most popular presidents Finland has ever had, with approval ratings between 94% and 97%. She is widely regarded as an easily approachable and down-to-earth person. Halonen has often been compared to "Moominmamma", a mother-figure from a cartoon created by Tove Jansson. Many appreciate, not the least those to the right of the Social Democrats, that she has made a career from modest circumstances due to her own competence, which has great value for meritocracy-minded Finns. Halonen was nominated as one of the top ten members of the "Suuret Suomalaiset" (greatest Finns) TV special in 2004, the only living person to be included.

Ms. Halonen announced her cancidacy for a second term as President of Finland in May 2005. Before the start of actual presidential campaigning, Halonen continued to enjoy high public support in polls.


Preceded by:
Martti Ahtisaari
President of Finland
2000–
Succeeded by:
Incumbent

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