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Tarja Halonen

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Template:Infobox President Tarja Kaarina Halonen (pronounced Template:Audio-IPA) (born December 24, 1943, in Helsinki, Finland) is the current President of Finland. She began her first six-year term of office in 2000 and was re-elected on January 29, 2006. Her current term expires in 2012. She is the first woman to hold the office.

Halonen married her long term partner, Dr. Pentti Arajärvi, after she was elected President for the first term.

BiographyEdit

Early life and political careerEdit

Tarja Halonen was born on 24 December 1943 in the district of Kallio, Helsinki, traditionally a working-class area, the daughter of Vieno Olavi Halonen and Lyyli Elina Loimola. She obtained a Master of Laws degree from the University of Helsinki in 1968. Halonen served as the Social Affairs Secretary and General Secretary of the National Union of Students (SYL) from 1969 to 1970 and, partly due to having held this position, she obtained a post as a lawyer with the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) from 1970 to 1974. She joined the Social Democratic Party in 1971.

In 1974 Prime Minister Kalevi Sorsa appointed Halonen as a parliamentary secretary. She became acquainted with the world of Finnish politics and government and began her political career, going on to hold a number of public offices. From 1975 until 1996, she was a member of Helsinki City Council. Additionally, in 1979 she was elected to Parliament as a member for the Helsinki constituency. She served as a member of Parliament until her inauguration as President in 2000. In the Parliament her first formal post was as Chairman of the Social Committee from 1984 to 1987.

In 1987, Halonen was appointed Minister of Social Affairs and Health in the government of Prime Minister Harri Holkeri, a position she held until 1990. In addition to this, she served as Minister of Nordic Cooperation from 1989 until 1991, the same year in which she was also appointed chairman of the International Solidarity Foundation, a post she relinquished in 2000. From 1990 to 1991 she served as Minister of Justice, and from 1995 until her election as President she served as the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the government of her Social Democratic colleague Paavo Lipponen.

The path to presidencyEdit

Halonen announced in 1999 that she wished to stand as a candidate for President in the 2000 Presidential election. In the 1994 election, for the first time, another woman, Elisabeth Rehn, had come very close to victory, inspiring Halonen and her supporters. After Halonen's announcement, the Social Democratic party made a decision to hold a preliminary election to decide its candidate. In these elections Halonen ran against Pertti Paasio, a member of the European Parliament and former party chairman, and Jacob Söderman, the EU Ombudsman. The incumbent, Martti Ahtisaari, refused to run in party preliminaries and thus announced that he would not run for a second term.

While Halonen started from fourth place in the polls, in the presidential election she got the most votes, 40.0% of popular votes. The nearest opponent, the former Prime Minister Esko Aho of the Centre Party, got 34.4%. Since neither of the two candidates got over 50% of votes, a second round was held as required by Finnish Law. In the second round, Ms. Halonen narrowly defeated her opponent with 51.6% against 48.4% thus becoming Finland's first female President. Her first term began on March 1, 2000. In 2006 she was re-elected for another term as President.

PresidencyEdit

File:Coat of Arms of Tarja Halonen.png

After her narrow election victory in the first election, Halonen's approval ratings rose and reached a peak of 88% in December 2003. In a survey made in February 12, 2006 her approval rate was at 74%. She is widely regarded as an easily approachable and down-to-earth person. Halonen has often been compared to "Moominmamma", a mother-figure from the comic strips and books created by Tove Jansson. Many people appreciate 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.

File:Halonen Tarja.JPG

Her lifestyle has caused some consternation, but her independent attitude has also brought her admiration. In the 1960s, she quit the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, to which the majority of Finns belong, to protest against its policy of taxing church members, and its stance against female priests. Today, the church accepts women as priests, and Halonen has stated that she has no personal reason not to return to the church but refrains from doing so in order not to give a signal that might be misinterpreted.[1] In 1990's, Halonen acted as the chairman of Suomen setlementtiliitto, a Christian social work organization.[2]

Other criticisms of Halonen have included her participation in the May 2005 Victory Day celebration in Moscow, and her opposition to the use of landmines in Finnish military doctrine. Critics Template:Who also say she has nominated some female candidates over their more qualified male colleagues for high positions, in particular the current President of the Supreme Court of Finland, Pauliine Koskelo[citation needed].

Presidential election 2006Edit

On May 20, 2005, Tarja Halonen held a press conference in Mäntyniemi where she announced her willingness to run for a second term. Officially, this was the desired answer for the SDP delegation that had visited her two days earlier. In addition to her own party's support, the leader of the Left Alliance, Suvi-Anne Siimes, gave her support for Halonen's future campaign.

Also giving his tongue-in-cheek support was the American talk show host Conan O'Brien. After discovering that he was very popular in Finland, he attributed it to the fact that he looks like Tarja Halonen. When he found out that she was up for re-election, he wanted her to win because "I like looking like the president of a country, even if it is a woman". He went as far as producing mock campaign ads, and attack ads against her opponents.

On November 19, the SDP's party council meeting was held; praised as "the president of the whole nation", she was unanimously chosen as the presidential candidate. Shortly thereafter, the party council of the Left Alliance gave the party's official support to Halonen.

Halonen's support for the second term was strong. She received 46% of the first round vote in the election. Sauli Niinistö (of the National Coalition Party) was second with 24%. They faced each other in a runoff on January 29 2006, where Halonen was re-elected with 51.8% of the vote against Mr. Niinistö's 48.2%. The re-election was a close call. She led in the advance voting, but as more debates were shown in the media, she eventually received fewer votes on the actual voting day than Mr. Niinistö did.

Family and interestsEdit

President Halonen's interests include art history, the theatre and swimming. She also enjoys drawing and painting, and she has two cats named Miska and Rontti. She speaks Finnish, Swedish, and English, and is studying Estonian.[3]

On August 26, 2000, President Halonen married her longtime partner, Dr Pentti Arajärvi, in a civil ceremony at her official residence, Mäntyniemi, after a relationship of more than fifteen years. Halonen's adult daughter Anna, and Arajärvi's adult son, Esko, acted as witnesses. Both children were from previous relationships. While in Finland her relationship was a minor issue, the marriage clarified the position of Dr. Arajärvi abroad.

Anna Halonen is the daughter of President Halonen and her former partner, Kari Pekkonen. She has completed a degree in international relations at the University of Kent and currently works as a coordinator at University of Helsinki's Aleksanteri Institute.

Political viewsEdit

Early in her political career Tarja Halonen represented the radical left wing of her former party (Social Democrat). She publicly opposed the proposed free trade agreement of the European Economic Community (EEC, later European Union) in 1973, by signing a petition along with 500 other more-or-less prominent social democrats and socialists. As an employee of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, Halonen advocated diplomatic recognition of East Germany. Otherwise she was loyal to President Kekkonen's foreign policy, which was founded on Finnish neutrality and good relations with the Soviet Union.

Throughout her political career, Halonen has been a strong supporter of human rights and international solidarity. She describes herself as a "relative pacifist", meaning that she doesn't support unilateral disarmament. She has strongly defended the President's role as the commander in chief of the military.[4] She opposes NATO membership. Her strong stands on these issues have characterised her presidential term and shaped Finnish foreign policy, in part in cooperation with the like-minded former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Erkki Tuomioja.

Gay and lesbian issuesEdit

In 1980–1981 Tarja Halonen served as the chairman of SETA (Seksuaalinen Tasavertaisuus RY, Sexual Equality), the main LGBT rights organization in Finland. When she became Minister for Justice in 1990, there were high hopes among SETA members that she would stand up for gay rights.[5]

In 2003, a widely publicised incident occurred when member of parliament Tony Halme mistakenly referred to Tarja Halonen as a lesbian. In a radio interview, Halme referred to his background of growing up "in the streets", and said: "We have a lesbian as president and me as parliamentarian. Everything seems possible."[6] Although Halme intended to refer to social mobility with his comment, it was interpreted as an insult by much of the media. Halonen herself made no comment. Halme later apologized saying he had been misunderstood.[7] According to her authorized biography published in 2005, Halonen is critical of some unnamed members of the Finnish civil service for being gay or lesbian and not coming out and campaigning for sexual equality. She accused these closeted homosexuals of reaping the benefits of other people's work for sexual equality without contributing themselves.

Resemblance to Conan O'BrienEdit

On the October 11, 2005 episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, host O'Brien mentioned that a Finnish man in the audience had observed that O'Brien resembled the President of Finland. During that time, O'Brien performed many comedy bits about his resemblance to Halonen, including some that promoted Halonen for a second term. Halonen's appearance in American popular culture received some publicity in Finland. About a week and a half after the initial show, Conan showed actual Finnish newspaper articles which commented on the resemblance, one calling them "like two peas in a pod".

After the initial publicity received by O'Brien's sketch, Halonen's re-election campaign started advertising on the Finnish broadcast of Late Night. The link with O'Brien sparked some debate over his effect on the election. On January 28, 2006, O'Brien announced that Late Night would visit Finland in February 2006, which he did. He met with Tarja Halonen on February 14, and Conan presented her with a heart-shaped box of chocolates. They then sat down and during the relaxed discussion, Halonen asked Conan if she looks more like his mother or his father, and joked "You have also made a great favor for us, because I think that at least now quite many more Americans know where Finland is."

Chronology of her political careerEdit

  • Member of the Social Democratic Party 1971–2000
  • Prime Minister's Parliamentary Secretary 1974–1975
  • Member of Helsinki City Council 1977–1996
  • Member of Parliament (Helsinki constituency) 1979–2000
  • Member of the Parliamentary Social Affairs Committee 1979-1986 (chair 1985-1986)
  • Deputy member of the Parliamentary Commerce Committee 1979-1982
  • Presidential elector 1979-1986
  • Member of the Parliamentary Trustees of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland 1980-1984
  • Deputy member, Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee 1982-1986
  • Minister of Social Affairs and Health 1987–1990
  • Minister of Nordic Cooperation 1989–1991
  • Minister of Justice 1990–1991
  • Member and vice chair of the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee 1991-1995
  • Member of the Parliamentary Grand Committee 1993-1995 (chair 1995)
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs 1995–2000
  • President of Finland 2000–present

References Edit

  1. Interview of Halonen in Kotimaa 12-2-2005. On the official webpage of the president. Retrieved 10-10-2007.
    Suomi:
  2. Tarja Halosen setlementtiliike. Palkkatyöläinen 3/2000. Retrieved 10-10-2007.
    Suomi:
  3. Office of the President of the Republic of Finland (2008). President of the Republic Tarja Halonen answers children's questions. The President of Finland official site. Retrieved on 2008-08-02.
  4. Anna Perho (2005): Tarja Halonen - ensimmäinen nainen City-lehti 24/2005
  5. Tarja Halonen & SETA
  6. Windy City Times - European Recognition, Diana Tapes Shock, Finnish Pres called Lesbian
  7. ranneliike.net:

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See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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